To the Editor:
As an 8th grade mathematics teacher and teacher of Algebra 1, I could not agree more with the article, “With Common Core, Algebra Course Undergoes a Face-Lift.”
Under the common core, many states have increased the rigor and depth of knowledge of mathematics that students are expected to learn. This change in structure has allowed 8th graders to really focus in on linearity, the skills inherent in algebra, and how to apply that knowledge. When students are able to learn this content deeply, they have a foundation that can improve their chances of succeeding in higher-level mathematics courses. This will open the door to other mathematics courses and success in those courses. A strong algebraic foundation is key to later success.
Although there is a recommended pathway for compacting 7th grade, 8th grade, and Algebra 1 content into two grade levels, most students are not ready for this level of acceleration.
I agree with the article that state mandates that require all students to take Algebra 1 as 8th graders should be re-evaluated. In my experience, the recommended content in the common-core Algebra 1 course is closer to what Algebra 2 looked like 30 years ago. The authors of the standards took a structured and purposeful approach to the algebraic content.
Algebra permeates the common core from kindergarten through 8th grade and beyond. As a result, students can build those skills and understanding from the beginning. By slowing down the content, but increasing the rigor, students will attain greater success with mathematics.
In the years to come and with this approach, I predict that there will be an increase, not a decrease, in student understanding of and achievement in mathematics.
A version of this article appeared in the July 08, 2015 edition of Education Week as Algebra Standards’ ‘Face-Lift’ Is Spot-On