Algebra pays

Learning algebra is essential for low-income minority students who hope to go to college, writes Ryan Hall, who teaches eighth graders at Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn.

 Algebra requires students to learn how to see patterns, how to generalize these patterns into rules, and most importantly how to make connections and solve problems.

If nothing else, mastering algebra is like doing push-ups, Hall writes. “Algebra makes your brain stronger.”

Math isn’t just for “math people,” Hall writes. All students can master algebra if they’re willing to “struggle and persevere.” His school devotes two hours a day to math. Teachers are coached on planning and executing lessons.

For every two-hour lesson plan I deliver, I spend many hours preparing that plan to ensure that it is flawless for my students. And we are driven by data. We assess regularly to know who is getting it and who is not, and then we intervene with supports for any students who need them.

But hey, these are kids. So we also play games like algebra Pictionary and algebra Taboo to help students learn vocabulary and practice communicating. We race to see who can factor the most polynomials in a minute. We have “Mathletes” practice at lunch and compete on Saturdays.

When his students said they should get paid for going to school, he devoted a class to calculating how much extra they’d earn as adults if they succeeded in class.

We basically found the additional income of having a college degree over the length of a normal career, and then divided that by the total hours they spend in classrooms from K through 12. They were amazed at how much they actually “earn” — and of course, they were even more invested after that.

Two hours day for math? It’s not surprising that 98 percent of his eighth-grade algebra students passed New York’s Regents exam.


About Joanne