Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Rational Coefficients

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Rational Coefficients

Article excerpt

For most Exceptional Parents who have tried to play by the numbers in their attempt to secure the greatest opportunities for their children to succeed, the irrationality of "special needs algebra" continues to challenge them.

The Scottish comedian

Billy Connolly nailed it when he said, "I don't know why I should have to learn Algebra... I'm never likely to go there."

He was right, "Algebra" is a place; and for most of us it wasn't the nicest place. Many of us actually never got there. To make matters worse, Algebra wasn't just a "place" it was a landmine that impacted on the journey.

Andrew Hacker, a political scientist (that's the kind of scientist that doesn't require any algebra) offered, "One out of five young Americans does not graduate from high school. This is one of the worst records in the developed world. Why? The chief academic reason is they failed ninth-grade algebra." Wow, naming "Algebra" as a culprit for our country's bleak academic performance is a powerful statement. And true to form, instead of trying to figure out how to improve the way we teach Algebra, we are now debating why we even need it.

The argument is that at most, only five percent of jobs make use of Algebra and other advanced math courses. The argument for fortifying Algebra in school is that Algebra teaches us all about relationships, and "relationships" are key to understanding our world.

Only 52 percent of the New York City students who took the State Regents exam in Algebra passed it--a failure rate (or pass rate) that reflects the entire country in regards to getting derailed by trying to figure out the value of something that has no value to most of the students who can't navigate the most basic equations.

The word Algebra comes from the Arabic "al-jabar" meaning "reunion of broken parts." This might be the only thing that makes sense to many students of Algebra since they view the entire discipline as being broken without a clue as to how to reassemble it. They struggle with formulas, equations, inverses, values, constants, variables and head scratching.

I don't know why they are resistant to learning Algebra. Heck, how can you expect to solve the "Hodge conjecture" without it? The Hodge conjecture is a major unsolved problem in the field of algebraic geometry that relates the algebraic topology of a non-singular complex algebraic variety and the subvarieties of that variety. More specifically, the conjecture says that certain de Rham cohomology classes are algebraic; that is, they are sums of Poincare duals of the homology classes of subvarieties. …

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