Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The 1940's: a heyday for algebra instruction?

Today's educators cast long ago math classes as mindless drill sessions, unenlightened by the "higher level thinking" that, so they claim, predominates, as never before, in today's "best practices."

But I've scoured today's algebra offerings and come up with little beyond the "cookbook style" memorize & plug-in evinced, for example, by the University of Chicago Math Project's approach to the Quadratic Formula.

Then I dredged up my mother's ancient algebra text, published in 1943. Check out some of these word problems from the introductory chapter, and compare them--and the actual higher level thinking they require--to what you find in today's algebra texts:

Express in symbols:
1. Two consecutive numbers.
2. Two consecutive even numbers.
3. Two consecutive odd numbers.
...
7. Henry's age three years ago if he will by y years old in two years.
...
20. The time it will take an automobile to go d miles at the rate of r miles per hour.

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