Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Tim Stahmer writes - and I agree - that "the larger problem with Algebra is the curriculum itself." He says algebra is "largely taught as a mechanical process" where students follow recipes and get "right answers", while in the real world, "math is used as an analytic tool, applied in a variety of fields where the problem is defined first and the necessary mathematical tools brought in as needed." Well, there's that, but like the "growth mindset", I don't think simply shifting to applied math will solve the problem. And here's the problem: algebra is the first place really where students encounter abstraction. The concept that 'x' can stand for anything is almost meaningless when it is first presented. Teaching applied math simply gives us different things for 'x' to stand for, but tells us nothing about 'x', which is the real problem (a problem which, ironically, becomes more acute the more you keep things concrete and practical). Something to think about.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Feb 26, 2024 4:00 p.m.

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