[Numeracy 137] The Push for Algebra

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Maureen Carro mcarro at lmi.net
Wed Feb 10 16:43:21 EST 2010

I lifted the following quote from an article in Education Week,
"Algebra-for-All' Push Found to Yield Poor Results"


“Simply sticking students in courses without preparing them ahead of
time for the class does not seem to work as an intervention,” said
Chrys Dougherty, the author of the Arkansas and Texas analysis,
published last month by the National Center for Educational
Achievement, in Austin, which is owned by the test publisher ACT Inc.
“It seems to work with adequately prepared students, but not for the
most challenged students.”

...and the article concludes:

‘Basic Arithmetic’

Tom Loveless, the author of the report from the Washington-based
Brookings Institution on “misplaced” math students in algebra, said
the issue is even more complex.

“No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or
eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one
year,” said Mr. Loveless, who favors interventions for struggling
students at even earlier ages.

Nationwide, research findings may diverge because testing content
varies—the TIMSS test has more algebra content than many state exams
taken by 8th graders—and because course content varies from classroom
to classroom.

“If you take what’s called algebra class, and you look at the actual
distribution of allocated time, you find that many of those teachers
spend a very large portion of that year on basic arithmetic,” said Mr.
Schmidt, who is a distinguished university professor of education at
Michigan State’s East Lansing campus. His research on U.S. classrooms
has found, in fact, that nearly a third of students studying algebra
are using arithmetic books in their classes.

Likewise, Mr. Loveless’ study found that “misplaced” students tended
to attend large urban schools where their teachers were more likely to
have less than five years of experience, less likely to hold a regular
teaching certificate, and less likely to have majored in math than
teachers of typical 8th grade algebra students.

“It may well have more to do with whether students have been given
adequate opportunities to learn this stuff,” Mr. Schmidt said of the
disappointing findings that have emerged from some studies

I cannot help but wonder how much time, effort, and money was spent to
arrive at this obvious conclusion!!

Maureen Carro, MS, ET
Academic Learning Solutions
Alamo, CA
mcarro at lmi.net

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