High school algebra seems to be the turning point for many students. Either they get through it on the first try, go on the be successful and graduate on time, or, algebra becomes their downfall, with them now sophmores, in both algebra and geometry, and now destined for continued struggles, and ultimately, more often than not, missing out on graduating with their peers.
As students head to college, math success also seems to be a determining factor in ultimate success. According to Harvard Graduate School of Education, in 2001, nearly 1/3 of incoming freshmen were required to take remedial classes.
Looking at these issues from a middle school teacher's perspective, I see the middle grades as the make it or break it point. If we, in middle school, do NOT get students ready for high school algebra, are we dooming them to a life of failure?
We have to look at how to strengthen math programs at this level. We have to find ways to reach all learners, and change the course of their destinies. We have to overcome math phobias, create students who are confident and comfortable with math, and encourage them to hone their missing skills.
The process isn't easy. But it is possible. Middle school math must become the change agent in education if we want students to have the opportunity to success as they move up the ladder of education.