Tuesday August 5, 2008


The San Francisco Chronicle is researching a story on Algebra class.
Remember that algebra course you probably had to take in high school? Chances are you either loved it — or it led to a hatred of math. Now [California] is going to be requiring eighth graders to solve for that elusive "x." For a story she is working on that will run later this month, education reporter Jill Tucker wants to talk with people about their memories of algebra class and whether the knowledge ever comes in handy in real life.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania. In my school system, we had "Math I" in 7th grade. If you did well in that, you went on to
  • 8th grade Algebra I
  • 9th grade Geometry
  • 10th grade Algebra II
  • 11th grade Trigonometry
  • 12th grade Calculus
If you didn't do so well in "Math I" you took Math II in 8th grade, then proceeded through the series, ending with Trigonometry in 12th grade. That was me. While most of my friends were taking Algebra I, I was taking Math II.

I had never had much luck with mathematics. I was one of the kids who ran into the "New Math" experiment in 4th grade (with a teacher who didn't understand it herself). From 4th grade on, with a few exceptions, math was HARD.

Until 8th grade. That extra year was what it took. After that, I "got" Math. Algebra was fun. Geometry was easy. In my senior year, a (junior) classmate wrote in my yearbook "You understand Trig and I don't understand people who understand Trig, but that's OK."

I hope California gives some thought to the students who aren't quite ready for Algebra in 8th grade. One more year might be all it takes.

(p.s. I majored in Science, got BS and MS degrees in Microbiology, with a minor in Computing, and have spent the past two decades employed primarily as a programmer. I took the required Calculus classes in College.)

This came to me by way of the San Francisco Chronicle's "Two Cents" program. Two Cents is "a program designed to get more of our readers' ideas, experiences and viewpoints into the paper." When a reporter needs to get in touch with people who have had a particular experience, that reporter can contact the members of the Two Cents pool of Bay Area residents. Rich and I have been part of the Two Cents program since 2004.

Algebra ( in category Retrospectoscope ) - posted at Tue, 05 Aug, 19:38 Pacific | «e»

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