What Do We Do with the Kids Who “Aren’t Ready” for Algebra?

Presenters from two projects developing and researching ninth-grade “double-period” algebra approaches and materials present their distinct but compatible perspectives. Group discussion is encouraged.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 1:45pm to 3:45pm
PI-organized Discussion

Having students enter high school “unready” for algebra is not a new or rare problem. The challenges, frankly, are vast. Students identified as “unready” are extremely varied, as are the reasons they are included in specialized classes. Some, for example, are mathematically competent, but included “for English language support.” More, of course, have some difficulty specific to mathematics. Of those, many are weak in arithmetic.

Because both students and teachers often see little hope for success, any intervention must cause change in teachers as well as in students. Designing an approach that meets all these needs is, of course, a challenge. The presenters are working on projects challenged by this very issue.

Both the Transition to Algebra (TTA) and Intensified Algebra (IA) projects aim to help students get back on a success-in-mathematics track. The goal of both programs is to help underprepared students catch up to their peers, equipping them to be successful in algebra and future learning and work that requires mathematical proficiency. TTA focuses on specifically algebraic habits of mind in the CCSS Mathematical Practices, on the puzzling-it-out stance implicit in Mathematical Practice 1, and on getting students (and teachers) to notice their own competence.

IA complements a robust Algebra I curriculum with embedded, efficient “review and repair” strategies. The program aims to address the social, affective, linguistic, and strategic cognitive and metacognitive dimensions of learning mathematics. IA uses an asset-based approach that builds on students’ strengths, and helps students to develop academic skills and identities by engaging them in the learning experience.

The session is structured to involve attendees in interactive discussion of the issues that confront teachers and schools as they attempt to address the needs of struggling algebra students.