For my students, the regular school year is almost over. We now head into the summer school season. This is when I help them fill in the gaps. For those who think math is “a drag” what do you think of this story that I culled from the paper a few months ago?
Kindergarten teachers unveil algebra concepts
Jan Jones’ 25 kindergartners at Robson Elementary School in Mesa are bigger, more focused and less wiggly than they were at the start of the school year six months ago. They can read simple books, write simple sentences and add and subtract one-digit numbers.
Their latest challenge? Algebra.
Arizona’s tough new Common Core Standards, being rolled out this year and next in all public schools across the state, require kindergarteners not only to count, add and subtract but understand the fundamentals of algebra before moving on to first grade.
That doesn’t mean Jones is requiring the 5- and 6-year-olds to solve for X and Y. But they are spending 30 to 40 minutes a day doing “equations” with beads and solving story problems involving groups of ducks or packages of candy.
Just a few years ago, students would not have tackled such problems until at least the first grade.
“You already know the words ‘add’ and ‘subtract,’” Jones said at the start of a recent lesson. “Today, we are going to learn a really big word. It means that we are ready to do math like 10th-graders. We are going to do ‘algebraic thinking.’”
“Aaaal-geh-braaa-ic thinking,” the students repeated after her.
Jones then explained that algebra is a way to create a set of something or to take a set apart.
“What do we do when we mix cookie dough?” she asked the class. “We put ingredients together.”
She went on to explain that by eating a finished cookie, they are taking the set of ingredients apart.
Sheri Tarter, Mesa Public Schools elementary math content specialist, said all kindergartners in Mesa schools this year are learning similar lessons — although teachers might use slightly different methods for introducing algebra to their classes of 5-year-olds.
Tarter said that recent research on how children learn shows that those who are shown how to manipulate groups and sets of objects at a young age do better with algebra and other types of abstract math later on.
“It’s important with kindergarteners to do it in a very concrete way,” she said.