Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Thursday, April 27, 2017 02:58:20 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

Higher Math in lower grades: Hurting or helping kids?

photo by

By
16th-Apr-2017       Readers ( 228 )   0 Comments
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all (0) »

Cindy Donaldson :
Every parent wants to see her child keep up with peers, and these days that means taking algebra in the eighth grade. But sometimes we forget that algebra is a very demanding course, full of sophisticated and abstract ideas. Do students really need to take this higher math course in lower grades, or can it do them more harm than good?
There are two sides to the issue. Politicians like the idea of offering algebra in middle school. They argue that the world has sped up over the past generation; technology has gotten more complicated, ideas more complex. Why not introduce harder concepts at younger ages? In 2008, California lawmakers began a campaign to make algebra mandatory for eighth-graders, a shift that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to President John F. Kennedy's pledge to put a man on the moon.
Meanwhile, many researchers believe that middle school students aren't ready for algebra. In a 2008 letter to the editor of The Ventura County Star, Professor of Education Dr. Bruce Mitchell argued against California's proposal. His letter referenced the studies of Dr. Herman Epstein, who believed that the human brain has rapid growth periods and plateau periods where no growth seems to take place. For most students, the middle school years occur during a plateau stage, and Epstein argued that "the plateau stages were not optimal times for the introduction of new higher-level thought processes, particularly algebra, which eighth-grade students fail more than any other subject. Historically, algebra has been most often offered in grades 10 though 12. That occurs during the age 14-17 growth-spurt stage, when it's OK to teach abstract reasoning concepts." After listening to these two sides, parents are forced to make a choice: trust the politicians who claim that our children need to take algebra at younger ages, or the researchers who think that our children need to wait. It can be hard to figure out the right path for your child.  
To get some answers from a hands-on expert, I spoke with award-winning high school math teacher, Jerry Brodkey. Dr. Brodkey has a PhD from Stanford in Mathematics and Curriculum Education, and has taught math for thirty-one years. He had some definite opinions about the move to teach algebra at younger and younger ages.
The "normal" track for math classes has shifted down in the past ten years.
When Dr. Brodkey began teaching, the normal track was for students to take Algebra I in ninth grade, followed by three years of college-prep math. This worked well for most students, and there was always a way for a select group of students to get ahead by taking algebra in eighth grade and advance to Calculus by their senior year. But in the past ten years, Dr. Brodkey has seen "an explosion of students taking algebra in the eighth grade. In the past five years, I'd call it a super-explosion." The normal track in many schools now has students taking algebra in the eighth grade.
The pressure to stay on the new "normal" track pushes students into math classes for which they are not ready.
Every year, Dr. Brodkey meets with parents whose freshmen have been appropriately placed in algebra. But want to know how they can accelerate their children onto the new "normal" track so they will reach AP Calculus by their senior year. In turn, Dr. Brodkey asks the parents whether the student wants to make this jump, or if it's a parent-driven decision. He asks them to be careful: "When a student is pushed to take a class for which he is not ready, he rarely acquires a lifelong affinity for math. Instead, he develops a desire to get out of math classes as fast as possible." He has found that when these students get to Calculus, they can struggle. They can do the first step in the problem, but not the next nine that require solid algebra skills.
Parents push their children onto this track because they think it's necessary for college admissions.
Parents are feeling tremendous pressure about getting their children into college. They are seeing students with a 4.3 GPA get turned away from top universities, and they are desperate to find an advantage for their child. But from Dr. Brodkey's perspective, pushing a child onto the Calculus track doesn't always help: "I think that college admissions officers like to see a student with a solid foundation, effective communication skills, and a record of working well with others, not someone who has struggled to fit in an extra AP class."
The move to introduce algebra in lower grades comes from politicians, not teachers.
Like many teachers, Dr. Brodkey questions the motives for California's campaign for eighth grade algebra: "I think that this push is part of a political agenda to show rigor in the schools. I can't see how it's a positive; it's not a student-centered decision. Any student can learn algebra, but the timing is critical." Algebra is an extremely challenging course, even more so than Calculus. Teachers introduce a brand-new topic every three or four weeks, and expect complete mastery. Thirteen and fourteen-year-old students are still developing their emotional and organizational skills, and algebra is a course that punishes any immaturity a student may have.
Algebra can be taught at lower ages, if it's introduced slowly.
Dr. Brodkey approves of the movement to layer algebraic concepts into early education. He asks his eight-year-old daughter questions like, "What number plus eight will make twelve?" He talks to his ten-year-old son about inequalities. But he feels that the traditional way algebra is taught now, with its demanding pace, is not appropriate for all middle school students. "Eighth grade algebra is fine for some students," he says, "and there may even be one or two students per school who benefit from the increasing hyper-acceleration of algebra into the seventh grade. But to make it an expectation for all students is not doing them any good."
The age at which a student takes algebra must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The age at which a student takes algebra is an important and individual decision, not one that should be made by blanket policies. Parents and teachers must work closely together to determine a student's placement. If you're a parent wondering whether to accelerate your student, there are some clues to look for. Algebra-ready kids are:
Organized
Mature
Able to pass an Algebra Readiness test
If you think your child is struggling in any one of these three areas, you can do him a favor by waiting another year before enrolling him in algebra. Placing your child in the right math class will teach him to feel successful and confident about his math skills. But pushing him up when he's not yet ready can bring on a case of math anxiety that will last for a lifetime.

0 Comments. Share your thoughts also.
Write a comment
Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Editorial »

Corruption at BRTA office needs to be held in check


IT is not unknown that government offices are safe haven for systematic corruption and where it is for rendering service to people the severity of harassment is all the more at work including extortion of money in different names. Media report on Wednesday said transport owners pay at least Tk ...

Football »

Noted sports writer Ekramuzzaman speaking at a memorial meeting of Mohammad Selim at the conference room of Dhaka Metropolis Football League Committee on Wednesday. Bangladesh Sports Press Association arranged the condolence meeting.


BSS, Dhaka

Entertainment »

Zaheer Khan-Sagarika Ghatge are now `Partners for life,` announced their engagement


If you are still not over with the much talked about marriage of Yuvraj Singh and Hazel Keech, then get ready for another! Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan, yesterday, announced that he has finally sealed the deal with a dazzling rock on his girlfriend Sagarika Ghatge’s finger. Announcing the news of ...

Entertainment »

Nazrul Academy’s Sahitya Adda : Nazrul Academy arranged its regular monthly session ‘Sahitya Adda’ recently at Nazrul Academy Bhaban at Belalabad in the city’s Mogbazar area. Vice president of Nazrul Academy Md Abdul Hannan chaired the meeting. Discussion on Nazrul’s Bidrohi poem and its research works were discussed by Hasan Alim.


City »

BUET Teachers Association observed a sit-in-programme in front of Academic Council Building on the BUET campus demanding their due pay-scale yesterday.


International »

China launches first home-built aircraft carrier amid South China Sea tension


Reuters, Beijing :China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension over North Korea and worries about Beijing's assertiveness in the South China Sea.State media has quoted military experts as saying the carrier, China's second and built in the northeastern port of Dalian, is not expected ...

Sports »

Colin Smith, FIFA`s Competitions Director (right) FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura (centre) and Vitaly Mutko, Russia's deputy prime minister in charge of sport, tourism and youth policies, attend a news conference after the Russia 2018 LOC Board meeting with FIFA participation in St.Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday.


.

Editorial »

Insufficient relief brings no hope to haor people


THE government relief operation in flood-hit haors where people have lost Boro crops in the field and livestock to become utterly helpless, seems to be quite inadequate and we believe it must be upward revised. Its relief scheme for 100 days to cover around 3.3 lakh poor families is quite ...

Entertainment »

Shahara not to be seen in movie


Entertainment Report  :Many days there is no news about once popular film actress Shahara. After getting marriage she has been engaged only with maintaining her family. For this reason, she is absent from any film related activity. But Shahara's fans still miss her. Her colleagues also miss her. Shahara also ...

City »

Parbatya Bangalee Chhatra Parishad (Dhaka Mahanagari) formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club on Tuesday demanding trial of killer(s) of Sadequl.


.

International »

North Korea stages large-scale artillery drill as US submarine docks in South


Reuters, Seoul :North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military as a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North's nuclear and missile programs.The port call by the USS Michigan came as a ...

Editorial »

Big steps needed to end city water logging


AFTER torrential rain, most parts of metropolis Dhaka, Chittagong and other major cities are suffering from knee-deep water from early this week. Accompanied by story wind and smog city life has become unbearable at places in muddy streets along the dirty footpaths. Under-construction flyovers are blocking movement of traffic in ...

Cricket »

Kohli pain after Bangalore set new low in IPL


AFP, New Delhi :Skipper Virat Kohli said "it really hurts" after Royal Challengers Bangalore slumped to a record low score of 49 against Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League.Chasing a modest 132, the Bangalore batsmen -- including Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers -- crashed in just ...

City »

Member of the Executive Council of Dhaka Club Limited Abdus Selim handing over a cheque of Tk 24 lakh to BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman for the assistance of Rana Plaza victims at a ceremony held in the city on Sunday.


.

Entertainment »

Purnima in three new plays


Entertainment Report :It is little bit late to come Eid but the directors have already started to make Eid telefilms and plays. Three directors are going to make three plays to cast National Film Award winner actress Purnima. These three directors are: Chayanika Chowdhury, Sraboni Ferdous and Rajibul Islam Rajib. ...

 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news