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Hey kids, who wants pi?

August 23, 2008

Re: "It doesn't add up," editorial, Aug. 16

California's omnipotent policymakers are now mandating Algebra I for all eighth-graders. Yet they threw out the Algebra I course entirely in the early 1990s when I taught at the L.A. Center for Enriched Studies. To properly prepare students for success with Algebra I, my school required a rigorous pre-algebra course. Hoping to buy better textbooks, we learned that educrats had deleted pre-algebra, Algebra I and geometry from the state-approved courses and had adopted Integrated Math. We hustled to buy new Algebra I books before the deadline and avoided the Integrated Math fad, which failed.

Algebra I students must build on previously mastered content like positive and negative numbers, equations and graphing, and word problems. Without this foundation, students cannot absorb topics in the proper sequence and depth. Teachers may lower expectations lest confused students become disruptive. But what is gained if Algebra I for all is watered down to accommodate some?

And who will teach it? College graduates with math backgrounds have job opportunities that are more inviting and better paying than coping with large classes of unprepared teenagers. The "California Algebra I Success Initiative" is sure to bring frustration and failure to our children.

Betty Raskoff Kazmin

Medford, Ore.

Once again, The Times, the governor and even the state superintendent of public instruction are missing the point. Why will all these algebra mandates fail? It's as simple as the single word "algebra."

Elementary students are told time after time, in numerous ways, that algebra is hard. "You'll learn that in algebra." Their older siblings are having trouble in algebra. Parents tell us in front of their children that "they come by being math-phobic naturally because I had trouble in algebra."

Algebra is simply a game -- how to solve a problem using a specific set of rules. And, as with any game, you need to understand the rules and practice.

Andrew Needle

Van Nuys

The writer is a teacher at Mulholland Middle School.

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