Q&A #4990

Teaching algebra in middle school

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From: Kristina (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Nov 02, 2000 at 15:21:31
Subject: Re: Teaching algebra in middle school

Hi Alice,

Here's an opposing view for you from another Teacher2Teacher Associate.
You'll see that Chris' definition is not the same as Martha's. He's talking
about a course, Algebra I, not just algebraic reasoning.

Let us know if this information is useful to you.

 -Kristina, for the T2T service

Chris wrote:

As a math teacher, I am convinced that it is often not appropriate for some 
middle school students to take Algebra I.  Since Algebra is the study of 
patterns, one could argue that algebraic reasoning occurs in grades much lower 
than fifth grade.  Therefore, the argument that it should be taught to all in 
middle school because it is taught in fifth grade, is not logical.  Formal 
algebraic operations is an abstract thinking process that can be daunting for 
some middle school students. Unfortunately, it is in states like Florida that 
mandate algebra to all that creates this problem.  You push a kid too early 
into Algebra, and you could limit the potential of that student because their 
foundation will be weak.  When states like Florida mandate Algebra for all, 
what ends up happening is that the Algebra that is taught, because it must
reach all students, is watered down, lacking in rigor and depth, and 
demonstrably inferior to what the program should be.

Algebra for all middle school students (11-14 year olds) is not something we 
should pursue as a nation unless we are willing to sacrifice the math 
potential of many of our students.

Chris Mahoney
Brookwood School

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