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Arithmetic to Algebra - Wu - 2009

# Arithmetic to Algebra - Wu - 2009

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Professor Wu of UC Berkeley writes on the Arithmetic in Elementary School need for Algebra and the Algebra that can be taught in the early years.
Professor Wu of UC Berkeley writes on the Arithmetic in Elementary School need for Algebra and the Algebra that can be taught in the early years.

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08/30/2010

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From arithmetic toalgebra
Slightly edited versionof a presentationat the University of Oregon, Eugene, ORFebruary 20, 2009H. Wu

Why can’t our students achieveintroductoryalgebra?
This presentation speciﬁcally addresses only introductory alge-bra, which refers roughly to what is called
Algebra I
in the usualcurriculum. Its main focus is on all students’ access to the trulybasic part of algebra that an average citizen needs in the high-tech age. The content of the traditional Algebra II course ison the whole more technical and is designed for future STEMstudents.In place of Algebra II, future non-STEM would beneﬁt morefrom a mathematics-culture course devoted, for example, to anunderstanding of probability and data, recently solved famousproblems in mathematics, and history of mathematics.

At least three reasons for students’ failure:(A)Arithmeticis about computation of speciﬁc numbers.Algebrais about what is true in general for
all
numbers,
all
whole numbers,
all
integers, etc.Going from the speciﬁc to the general is a giant conceptual leap.
Students are not prepared by our curriculum for this leap.
(B) They don’t get the foundational skills needed for algebra.(C) They are taught incorrect mathematics in algebra classes.
Garbage in, garbage out.
These are not independent statements. They are inter-related.