Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Tuesday, December 18, 2018 12:01:35 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

Higher math in lower grades: Hurting or helping kids?

photo by

By
22nd-Jul-2017       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

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.

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Entertainment »

Ankhi Alamgir enthrals Kolkata audience


Entertainment Report :   In the beginning of current year popular singer Ankhi Alamgir performed in Utsab at Jodhpur Park in Kolkata. In the meantime, she also went to Kolkata for several times. On December 14, she got the opportunity to perform as a leading singer of Bangladesh at outdoor pool ...

Business & Economy »

Choudhury Atiur Rasul, Chief Financial Officer of Agricultural Marketing Company Limited (AMCL), a sister concern of PRAN Group, receiving the 'ICMAB Best Corporate Award-2017' in the Miscellaneous Manufacturing Category from Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, at a programme held at a hotel in the city on Saturday. Dr. M Khairul Hossain, Chairman of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission and Suvod Kumar Karn, President of South Asian Federation of Accountants were also present.


.

Cricket »

Shakib Al Hasan plays a shot during the first Twenty20 International match between Bangladesh and West Indies at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Monday. Shakib scored 61 runs.


Cricket »

Fizz moves to top five in ODI rankings


Mustafizur Rahman has made a big leap to enter into the top five ranks of ICC ODI bowling rankings. Other Bangladeshi players have also made progress in the rankings after the end of Bangladesh-Windies ODIs.The Fizz moved five places to no.5 in the rankings. He has career-best 695 points against ...

Editorial »

Dhaka must involve ASEAN nations for early Rohingya repatriation


MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday asked the ASEAN nations to take tough measures for creating pressure on Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims. More than 720,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August ...

International »

Indian troops enforce lockdown to foil Kashmir public march


AP, Srinagar :Soldiers and police fanned out across Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday to enforce a security lockdown for a second straight day to stop anti-India protests and foil a call by separatists for a march toward India's main military garrison in the disputed region.Government forces patrolled streets in the region's ...

Cricket »

Sri Lanka 275-9 at stumps on day 1, 1st Test vs New Zealand


AP, New Zealand :Tim Southee took 5-67 as New Zealand exploited an influential toss to contain Sri Lanka to 275-9 Saturday on the first day of the first cricket Test at the Basin Reserve.A late unbeaten half century by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella helped swing the day a little in Sri ...

Football »

Salah retains BBC African Footballer of the Year award


Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah has capped a sparkling 2018 for club and country by winning the prestigious BBC African Footballer of the Year Award for the second time in a row."It's a great feeling to win again. I'm happy and I would like to win it also next ...

Entertainment »

Soundarya Sharma is going to have an exceptional time this festive season


Actress Soundarya Sharma who made her stellar debut in Ranchi Diaries, a Comedy thriller film, and got a thumbs up from the critics and audience and awarded as the ‘Best Debutante’ at Jharkhand international film festival 2018. She was nominated for the ‘Best Female Debutante’ by Zee Cine Awards 2018 ...

Entertainment »

Ishana in four plays under same director’s direction


Sheikh Arif Bulbon :Popular TV actress of present time Ishana Khan has worked in four faction plays under same director's direction. She has finished shooting of these four plays under Satirtho Rahman Rubel’s direction. Shooting of these plays took place in Darjeeling from November last week to December first week. ...

Editorial »

No room for self-satisfaction, success needed in other fields too


THE nation celebrates the 48th Victory Day today amid festivity. Today, the nation will remember its glorious historical achievement earned through a nine-month war against Pakistan Occupation Forces in 1971. The nation will recall today, Bangladesh was born as an independent country under the leadership of Father of the Nation ...

International »

Australia recognises west Jerusalem as capital of Israel


Australia now recognises west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday, but a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.Canberra became one of just a few governments around the world to follow US President Donald Trump's lead and recognise ...

International »

Trump taps budget head Mulvaney as acting chief of staff


Donald Trump announced Friday that his budget director Mick Mulvaney will step in as acting chief of staff to replace John Kelly - amid indications the president is struggling to fill the key post.Trump, whose presidency is increasingly embroiled in legal troubles, announced earlier this month that Kelly, a former ...

City »

BNP candidate of Dhaka-8 constituency Mirza Abbas speaking at a prèss conference at his residence in the city on Saturday in protest against attack on his electioneering in the city's Segunbagicha area.


Entertainment »

Mim`s new movie Thai Curry


Sheikh Arif Bulbon :End of this year is becoming something new for the National Film Award winner actress Bidya Sinha Saha Mim. At the end of this year, she has started shooting of a new movie. Now she is staying in Bangkok to take part in shooting of the movie. ...

 
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