Q&A #17151

New pre-algebra course without prerequisites

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From: Gail (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: May 22, 2006 at 17:30:26
Subject: Re: New pre-algebra course without prerequisites

Hi Jackie, I don't mind at all if you ask another question ... In my school system, an urban system in Virginia, we believe that all the courses leading up to algebra are "pre-algebra". That is to say, everything elementary teachers do should be with the goal of algebra for all in mind. So we are constantly considering the way material is presented, trying to make sure students are given lessons in reasoning algebraically at the same time they are learning those basic arithmetic skills. The school I am presently teaching in is a magnet program, and students have to meet some minimal criteria to be admitted. The criteria involves having a passing score on their fifth grade state testing. Having said that, I will tell you that these are MINIMAL tests... I have students who run the range academically in mathematics. I have done this for three years, which is not an eternity, but each year, working with the algebra and geometry teachers, I have been able to refine the curriculum to prepare my students for what lies ahead (all our students take algebra for high school credit in 7th grade, and geometry in the 8th grade). They surprise me with both what they know, and what they can reason out, every year. For some it seems an impossibility in the Fall, but sure enough, as spring rolls around, I realize they are solving problems and thinking about situations just as I hoped they would. I heard Lee Stiff speak a few months ago. He is a former president of NCTM, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. He mentioned that algebra is a gatekeeper, and that only a few "special" students used to be able to take it. Now, since we are requiring many more to take algebra, suddenly the gate is coming down in earlier grades... He really made me think about what the bottom line is. Do we think all kids can learn, or not? And if we really do, then we need to put our money where our mouth is. I am so glad to hear that your teachers are embracing this new challenge. Just think how different the world will be with people who would never say, "I was never any good at math..." -Gail, for the T2T service

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