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Algehype: Parabola vs Hyperbole

This past summer, an op-ed in The New York Times raised a lot of controversy while addressing the question: "Is algebra necessary?"

Despite that author's lame effort, the readers' responses were most interesting...perhaps serving as a weathervane for math eduction.

An now, the question spreads locally. On August 24 in The Oregonian, Linus Rollman (Tualatin teacher) shared his response, arguing that we should teach algebra to all students.

In fact, he makes several strong claims:

  • "Algebra is so poorly regarded... far too few students have been taught to appreciate its real beauty or to understand what it's for"
  • "Algebra is an incredibly flexible problem-solving tool...it can be used to state and prove mathematical truths"
  • "Properly understood and well-taught, algebra is the mathematical art of moving from the particular to the general"
  • "It is the key to the kind of deep mathematical understanding that every child deserves and every child can achieve"
  • "If we deny them access to algebra, we deny them access to an entire intellectual universe"
Do you agree or disagree? Is this what you tell students? Do you share the beauty? Can you tell me (or the students) exactly how to see and appreciate this beauty?

Sometimes we (myself included!) go overboard with our claims and word-use. For example, I know algebra but am left pondering exactly what this "entire intellectual universe" is that I can access!

Source: The Oregonian, August 24, 2012