Given my interest in the field, here’s an interesting article about the damage done to ALL students by the push to teach algebra early: Solving America’s Math Problem
Here’s the thing. Algebra is by its nature quite abstract; you’re not dealing with things easy to count up with piles of beans or what-have-you anymore. Not all kids handle the conceptual jump well – and the earlier you try to teach abstract concepts, the more children will have difficulty with the class. This is where “I HATE MATH” comes from – attempting to ram advanced concepts into minds that quite simply haven’t grown enough to make the neural connections required. Not everybody is a “math person” who finishes four years of calculus by the end of high school, and that’s not a problem – the math person and the non-math person simply have different strengths; one isn’t better than the other. I teach perfectly intelligent kids who simply don’t have a lot of math acumen all the time. I think most of the time the main problem is that until they hit algebra, they’ve never been taught to problem-solve analytically, so it’s a completely new way of thinking on top of having to learn a whole new math language. (Makes me want to strangle whoever is responsible for the school curriculum, but that’s another story.)
And then there’s the advanced student, who is particularly ill-served by the watered-down classes. Smart students who aren’t challenged by the material become bored, and bored, smart students equals trouble. As well as a dreadful waste of human potential. So despite the idiots in charge of education whose infatuation with making everybody “equal” (read: identical cogs in a machine), it’s really time to tailor education to the individual.
Common core standards imposed by fiat from Obama notwithstanding. Not even identical twins are interchangeable – why would anyone think structuring education as if all children are completely interchangeable is a good idea, rather than lunacy?