Saturday, September 16, 2006

Shoes Before Socks?

Last September I taught an extremely bright ninth grade algebra class. They knew most of the basics, such as order of operations, signed numbers and equation solving so I concentrated on giving them plenty of enrichment, while still teaching the basics to the few kids that needed the review. I remember coming to the lesson on solving literal equations, such as ax + b = c (solve for x). I was shocked when I saw the majority of the class didn't know anything about only combining like terms and tried to add all the variables together. It was only when I took a real close look at the curriculum that I realized the lesson on combining monomials (like terms) came in the following semester. These poor kids were learning the math completely out of sequence. For anyone not knowing much about math a good analogy would be putting on your shoes and then putting on your socks.

If the powers that be are really serious about improving the quality of math eduation in this country then they must revert to the old algebra, geometry and trigonometry that was taught before 1980. Only a good foundation in the basics will insure success!

10 comments:

Jonathan said...

You know that the new series of Regents Exams, to be phased in starting June 2008, is Integrated Algebra, Integrated Geometry, and Integrated Algebra 2 w/Trigonometry?

It will be, afaik, possible to teach a fairly standard algebra. Now, there will be a few extra topics, and some extra emphasis on applications, on the calculator, on understanding. They may face a few unusual looking problems. But I think we will be able to modify or enrich a standard course to do the trick.

For me, lucky me, my school already uses a good algebra text (Dolciani). I have no idea what will happen citywide, but I hope that they do not reorder Prentice Hall with a new, Algebra cover (PH's Math A book is almost identical to a book they sell elsewhere as Algebra: Tools for a Changing World).

That book and several other algebra texts have misordered tasks and massive deƫmphasis of the 'hard stuff' such as factoring.

Pissed Off said...

I look forward to going back to the old curriculum also. No math teacher could have been consulted before ordering Prentice Hall. The last few times I taught Math A, I refused to give that book out. First, I just waited until everyone else gave out the book and then told my chairman there were none left. He let me use Amsco Math A instead. Last year, he taugth an M&CD and saw first hand how impossible it was to teach from that book. This semester he let everyone use the Amsco book. I remember Dolciani from many years ago. It was a very good book. Another good source in Cruising Through Math A (also Math B) by Lin McMullin. He has great problems. Isupplement with many of those problems as well as Dolciani.

Ellie said...

The degraded math curriculum is a result of the state rewriting Sequential I, II, and III topics into the Math A curriculum in a non educational haphazard fashion, and then allowing Prentice Hall to expand and embellish this so- called curriculum with its flashy advertising campaign that calls itself the NYC Math A textbook. It is actually $70 per book. The expense the city wasted on this, the worst math text ever published, should be a scandal. I refuse to use this textbook for anything except kindling. Amsco is just fine, with its very plain non flashy logically sequenced chapters and topics. There is no chapter in the PH book that even covers combining like terms prior to chapters where students are required to do so; PH goes right to combining like terms of polynomials. The only good part of PH is the resource materials, with the accompanying worksheets for reteaching and review. That I'd keep and ditch that awful text.

Pissed Off said...

I even ditched the worksheets. They contain too many problems and leave no space for work. some of the problems are way too difficult and I find the kids that need the review the most find the sheets overwhelming. I guess I am a glutton for punishment because I spend hours typing up my own sheets. Maybe I can get them published and get someone to give me $7 a book!

Jonathan said...

Amsco logical?

I'll be happy to be back to algebra.

Pissed Off said...

Me too, although I will probably be retired by then.

Jonathan said...

Really retired? First algebra regents is scheduled for June '08, one year and nine months from now.

Pissed Off said...

Retirement almost definitely by then. I love teaching but I can't take the conditions I am working under. I usually tutor kids sitting on floor in hall because there is no other place to work. Our copy machine has been broken all week. And my heart is breaking from watching the shaft my students are given every day.

Jonathan said...

Somehow I assumed you were new (and then I was wondering how you had figured so much out!)

I'm only 10 years myself. Integrated Algebra will have been replaced before I can retire.

Pissed Off said...

Its the kids--if you like them, they keep you young. They are the ones that keep me coming every day!