The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

September 19, 2012

Math success begins with algebra

By Marianne Bright for the SNAP

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 — Changes in society and new expectations of colleges and employers have revolutionized the math curriculum in schools nationwide. Success in algebra often correlates to success in college, so it is very important for today’s students to do their best with this critical subject.

What practical steps can be taken to ease parental concerns and help families build confidence in this new approach to middle and high school mathematics?

Students who take advanced mathematics courses during high school, and begin to study algebra during middle school, are at an advantage. Traditionally, students cannot take a higher-level mathematics class in high school until they have successfully completed Algebra 1.

Encourage children to take algebra early in their educational careers, if they are academically ready.

Students who do not take courses covering algebraic concepts early in their schooling risk missing important opportunities for growth. Some high schools require children to complete specific math requirements in order to graduate. By the end of junior and senior years, students who have not planned ahead have fewer options in what classes they can take and may not be able to complete prerequisite courses. This can restrict a student’s college options and limit their career aspirations.

Persuade children to take additional math classes.

Many students indicate that they do not plan to take math classes beyond their school requirements. Math classes offer critical learning skills that are needed throughout life. Success in algebra correlates with success in higher education and learning reasoning skills. Taking additional math classes helps children to become logical, independent thinkers.

Technology should support math instruction and students should be encouraged to use all of the modern tools at their disposal to gain an understanding of the underlying reasoning and computations used in problem-solving. Educators believe that infusing learning aids and technology during in-school math instruction and homework completion provides an advantage at test time because it allows students to easily absorb and retain crucial math concepts.