e-book Educational Algebra

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Of those students who played at least 1 hour, Of those students who played at least 45 minutes, I hated algebra.

Algebra Basics: What Is Algebra? - Math Antics

I was terrified of variables. I avoided it at all costs. Now, I find myself playing DragonBox for fun. The original DragonBox app is one thing that initially sparked my enthusiasm for game based learning. Among the many responses to that piece, I received an email challenging me to play DragonBox with my kids.

I downloaded the app and was astonished to see how quickly my son then 7 learned to do complex algebraic equations. I was blown away. I felt like I glimpsed a future in which kids love to learn. I imagined schools full of enthusiastic kids discovering that both life and work can be play. If DragonBox could make algebra exciting, what else could we expect from interactive learning?

Is Algebra Necessary?

Jean-Baptiste Huynh, the creator of DragonBox, emailed me a few days ago. The updates are impressive, showing me that Huynh is a fantastic teacher. He took an already impressive learning platform and updated it to make it even stronger. This is one of the criteria of good teaching: ongoing assessment not only of your students, but also of your own performance--self study.

I watched him breeze through the first two chapters in about 20 minutes. Soon, however, I was wondering about why we value Algebra in the first place: abstract thinking, problem solving skills? Were my kids simply learning mechanical processes, algebraic procedure? Or were they also gaining the kinds of cognitive skills that led educators to value algebra class in the first place?

Jordan: Broadly speaking, why is algebra important? Jean-Baptiste: Algebra is important for MY kids because I want them to be able to understand how the world works: physics, science etc. You need algebra to understand the math behind these disciplines. Also, I want my kids to make good decisions--economics, finance, statistics all require algebra. Jean-Baptiste Huynh, creator of DragonBox.

I've seen that DragonBox teaches my kids the mechanics of algebra processes. Do you have any sense of whether or not this translates to development of abstract and critical thinking skills? We need to teach the rest. DragonBox is about the mechanics of algebra processes, and abstraction.


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Nor will just passing grades suffice. Many colleges seek to raise their status by setting a high mathematics bar.

Hence, they look for on the math section of the SAT, a height attained in by only 9 percent of men and 4 percent of women. Louis , applicants had best be legacies or athletes if they have scored less than on their math SATs. Nor is it clear that the math we learn in the classroom has any relation to the quantitative reasoning we need on the job.

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John P. Toyota , for example, recently chose to locate a plant in a remote Mississippi county, even though its schools are far from stellar. That sort of collaboration has long undergirded German apprenticeship programs.

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Rethinking “Algebra for All” - Educational Leadership

I fully concur that high-tech knowledge is needed to sustain an advanced industrial economy. In fact, we hear it argued that we have a shortage of graduates with STEM credentials. View all New York Times newsletters. Of course, people should learn basic numerical skills: decimals, ratios and estimating, sharpened by a good grounding in arithmetic. But a definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.

And if there is a shortage of STEM graduates, an equally crucial issue is how many available positions there are for men and women with these skills. A January analysis from the Georgetown center found 7. Algebraic algorithms underpin animated movies, investment strategies and airline ticket prices.

And we need people to understand how those things work and to advance our frontiers. Quantitative literacy clearly is useful in weighing all manner of public policies, from the Affordable Care Act, to the costs and benefits of environmental regulation, to the impact of climate change. Being able to detect and identify ideology at work behind the numbers is of obvious use.

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Ours is fast becoming a statistical age, which raises the bar for informed citizenship. What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey. What of the claim that mathematics sharpens our minds and makes us more intellectually adept as individuals and a citizen body? Many of those who struggled through a traditional math regimen feel that doing so annealed their character.

This may or may not speak to the fact that institutions and occupations often install prerequisites just to look rigorous — hardly a rational justification for maintaining so many mathematics mandates. Demanding algebra across the board actually skews a student body, not necessarily for the better. I WANT to end on a positive note.

Mathematics, both pure and applied, is integral to our civilization, whether the realm is aesthetic or electronic. But for most adults, it is more feared or revered than understood. Instead of investing so much of our academic energy in a subject that blocks further attainment for much of our population, I propose that we start thinking about alternatives.

Nor would it focus on equations used by scholars when they write for one another. Instead, it would familiarize students with the kinds of numbers that describe and delineate our personal and public lives. It could, for example, teach students how the Consumer Price Index is computed, what is included and how each item in the index is weighted — and include discussion about which items should be included and what weights they should be given. This need not involve dumbing down. Researching the reliability of numbers can be as demanding as geometry. I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures.

Why not mathematics in art and music — even poetry — along with its role in assorted sciences? The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet. If we rethink how the discipline is conceived, word will get around and math enrollments are bound to rise. It can only help. Of the 1. But that would misuse teaching talent and student effort. It would be far better to reduce, not expand, the mathematics we ask young people to imbibe.