Overcoming Algebra

Next Tuesday, there is going to be a free live “webinar” over at http://edweek.org/go/algebra. Presenters in this web-based seminar are Jon R. Star and Mary Jo Tavormina. Star is educational psychologist and assistant professor of education at Harvard University, whereas Tavormina is elementary mathematics manager in the Chicago Public Schools. Here is a description of the webinar:

One of the biggest challenges in K-12 education today is how to help students overcome their struggles in introductory algebra. Many students fail or are barely able to keep up in their first algebra course, typically taught in 8th or 9th grade. In response, state and school district officials are trying to solve this problem in several ways, such as by encouraging better teacher preparation, including an emphasis on algebra, and by revamping courses and curricula to help struggling students, such as through the creation of “algebra readiness” classes aimed at girding students for the challenges of that class. In addition, policymakers at all levels have called for an improved, more streamlined approach to teaching elementary and middle-grades math as a way of preparing students for algebra.

This webinar will bring together a number of experts who have examined students’ experiences with algebra. One of the goals is to explore the fundamental question: Why do so many students find algebra so difficult? The webinar will then examine efforts by districts and private curriculum-developers to help these students. It will also touch on major developments at the national level in this area, such as the release last year of a report of the National Math Advisory Panel, which called for more coherent math curricula at early grades as a foundation for algebra.

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