Math Education Concepts

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Math Education Facelift

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (

Recently education has been seeing major changes as technological advances are happening in our world.  Math education is, of course, impacted by these changes.  Almost gone are the days of traditional lecturing, class exercises, and homework assignments using a chalk board, pencil, and paper.  Many schools are integrating iPad programs, using flipped classroom methods, offering online course, etc.  Of course these are your more affluent schools but it puts pressure on other schools to do the same so their students can be competitive in the workforce.  Where does this leave me, the traditional math educator?

One of two things will eventually happen.  1) I will assimilate or 2) I will leave the industry.  Although my heart is in math education, I haven’t fully embraced the technological advances happening around math education (iPad programs, apps, flipped classrooms, MOOC, etc.).  I have had experience with most of these new methods of teaching, but it has been an adjustment.  My students have also had to adjust to the changes.  Many of them do not like it, but it’s the new direction of math education.

So I am writing this blog because it may be my last on this site.  Although I will always have my hand in math education, I’m not sure the direction I will take as we progress as a world.  Change is difficult, but should be embraced.  I am working on embracing this change!


Students Thinking Algebraically

A few days ago I experienced one of the most inspiring moments as an algebra teacher…  I gave my 9th grade students a quiz on solving equations (one-step, two-step, multi-step, literal, etc.).  One of the questions was a word problem that involved buying a season pass ticket to an amusement park versus buying single passes and making multiple visits to the park.  The first part of the question asked students to determine how many trips to the park they would have to make in order for the season pass to be the better deal.  The second part asked the students to write an equation to model the situation.  The third part asked the students to solve the equation.  Most of the students immediately solved the problem by writing and solving an equation.  When they read the second and third parts of the problem they were confused because they had already completed both parts in the beginning.  I was excited!!!!

This is why I was excited…  The students were initially asked to solve the problem using any method (it was an open-ended question).  Most of the students immediately wrote and solved an equation because that was their first thought.  These students were ahead of the test question!  They were already “thinking algebraically” before the question asked them to think algebraically.

After I collected the quizzes the students told me they were confused by the problem and wondered whether they answered it incorrectly.  I told them they answered the question exactly the way they should have.  I told them they were thinking algebraically and that is how they should be thinking.  They were pleased with my response!

The goal of algebra teachers should be to help students think algebraically.  When this happens, students begin to look at problems differently.  They begin to generalize situations and find solutions quickly (and accurately).  Thinking algebraically is a higher level of thinking that most students (and adults) never achieve.  Most of my 9th grade students are already thinking algebraically!  As much as I would like to take full credit for this, I can’t.  Their teachers before me did a phenomenal job and that makes my job easier.

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Bridging the Gap Between Arithmetic and Algebra

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I have been teaching college level precalculus for several years.  A running theme of concern has been the lack of preparedness of my students for the course.  The struggling students somehow place into the course, but clearly are not prepared.  My assessment is that the students’ basic algebra skills are weak.  But what happens when a student takes algebra for the first time, but are not prepared?  Why are some students ready for algebra and some students struggle with the basic algebraic concepts covered in Pre-algebra or Algebra 1 courses?  What do you do as a teacher when you are faced with the challenge of bridging the gap between arithmetic and algebra?  How do you incorporate these concepts into your lessons without losing algebra “teaching time?”

This is an issue many Algebra 1 teachers face.  The common concern is that students taking Algebra 1 lack basic arithmetic skills.  But these skills are necessary for success in Algebra 1.  For example, many students struggle with adding fractions.  What happens when those same students have to solve equations with rational expressions?  If they have not mastered adding fractions, they will not be able to solve equations with rational expressions or they will experience difficulty when faced with these problems.

To me the answer is clear… Teach students so that they master basic arithmetic skills before they enter Algebra 1.  This charge is for elementary school teachers.  Here is the reality…  This is not always accomplished.  Elementary school teachers probably have their reasons for why this is not happening, across the board.  In the meantime, students are required to take Algebra 1 with whatever skills they have acquired.  This presents a problem to secondary teachers who have students entering Algebra 1 lacking the basic skills needed to learn and master basic algebra concepts.

How do you bridge that gap as an Algebra 1 teacher?  What does that bridge look like?  How do you help these students without hindering the advancement of the students who were fortunate to have mastered these skills?

These are very valid questions with many valid answers.  What are your thoughts?  What have you done in this situation?


My Teacher Training Manual

Available on Amazon (Kindle Edition)

Available on Amazon (Kindle Edition)

I finally did it!  I wrote a teacher training manual several years ago and I finally published it on Amazon in Kindle edition this morning.

The manual was written for secondary math teachers of African American urban students (hence, the title).  This topic has always been dear to me as a student, parent, mentor, teacher, and educator.  The goal of the manual is to help teachers teach their students more effectively.  Oftentimes teachers enter classrooms with their own ideas about learning and neglect to think about their students’ ideas about learning.  This manual helps teachers view learning from a different perspective.  It also offers ideas and suggestions for applying some of the concepts written.

Although this manual was written with secondary math teachers in mind, it can be used across several curricula and grade levels.

Order your Kindle edition of this manual and share what you learn with your colleagues, staff, family, friends, and anyone else who will benefit from its contents.



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Dread Math Homework?

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Dread Math Homework? You’re NOT the Only One…Math Homework Solutions Are Here |