Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Algebra is Not a Four Letter Word

Despite the overwhelming evidence that a foundation in algebraic thinking is essential to a sound mathematics education, algebra continues to get a bad rap among the populous. Billy Connolly's Algebra rant (foul language warning) is hysterical, but sad because it spotlights the popular opinion that algebra is incomprehensible and useless.

I've been thinking about algebra's reputation a lot lately:
  • What do we need to do to make algebra seem approachable and  useFUL for everyone? 
  • How can we improve the way we rationalize algebra - so that our arguments are convincing and appealing to even the most jaded among us?
  • What can I do in my own classroom, so that my students better understand both HOW to use algebra and WHAT algebra is useful for?

These questions have been driving my thoughts lately, most likely spurred by the heightened student frustration I have experienced as we switch gears from one semester to the next. There is nothing like a cumulative exam to dredge up student anxiety and feelings of hatred for the source of those anxieties!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! We need to make sure we teach the math/algebra/calc content along with the science that employs it so that students can use the math/etc concepts to concrete applications they encounter in school (and life!). As a science teacher I hear too many "that's Math, I don't do well in math...How am I supposed to know how THAT works in YOUR class?!". The only other comment that I get more frequently is about using complete sentences, subject/verb agreement in their science writings....