Algebra in Kindergarten? No Kidding

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New Math Program for California Introduces Algebra Concepts in Kindergarten

What's so scary about algebra? Is it really THAT intimidating? Aren't we just talking about a way of learning math where symbols (simply letters of the alphabet) represent unknown numbers?

Problem: x + 2 = 6

Answer: 4 + 2 = 6

What's the big deal?

When the President's National Math Advisory Panel issued its long-awaited report this past spring, headlines around the country shouted "Algebra" and "Algebra-readiness." Indeed, algebra was at the core of the findings, with the Panel noting that the mathematics children learn from preschool through the middle grades provides the basic foundation for algebra.

The California Board of Education underscored this shift in how and when to teach math concepts with its recent vote requiring eighth-graders to take and be tested in Algebra 1.

But many California School districts were already mobilizing to revamp their approach to math. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the nation, was first out of the gate to opt for a single research-based math curriculum for the city's elementary students that introduces algebra concepts in kindergarten and carries them on through every grade.

In addition to LAUSD, more than 50 other districts, including Fresno, Riverside, Corona-Norco, Stockton and Lodi have chosen the enVisionMath California curriculum developed by education publisher Pearson and customized for California. Applauded by educators nationally for its visual, innovative, research-based approach, enVisionMATH has overnight become the most widely adopted curriculum in the state - and throughout the U.S.

The program is centered on conceptual development and problem-solving skills, and exposing young students to algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten to build a rock-solid foundation for higher-level math courses in middle and high school.

"Algebra doesn't have to be difficult to learn or teach - especially when we begin introducing these concepts at an early age," said enVisionMATH California author Dr. Randall Charles, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics at San Jose State University and past vice president of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics.

He added, "Preparing all students for success in algebra at grade 8 requires a strong 'early algebra' curriculum as well as a curriculum that focuses on developing concepts and skills involving fractions. Too many students find algebra challenging because of a poor background in fractions. enVisionMATH develops the essential understandings and skills related to fractions needed for success in algebra."

Charles continued, "Algebra concepts and skills need not be mysterious to teachers or students when they are taught with a focus on 'sense making'. Furthermore, all teachers can successfully teach algebra and all students can successfully learn algebra when teaching and learning are guided by enVisionMATH."

"Our elementary grades program reflects the latest research about learning mathematics and already fills a void from an old model that essentially no longer exists," said Vicky Bush, Pearson's vice president for California. "enVisionMATH sets a new standard in laying this crucial early foundation for success."

The state's new eighth-grade Algebra 1 requirement, which is to be phased in over the next three years, means that it's today's elementary students who must begin preparing this school year," said Bush.

"One of the other critical programs we are offering for California is an Algebra Readiness fixed-term course for eighth grade students who are not yet prepared for Algebra 1," said Bush. "Virtually all of the research in recent years confirms that in order for our students to compete in the global 21st century economy, they simply must improve significantly in their understanding of math concepts and skills," she said. "Mathematics is a significant obstacle for many students, but this can no longer be acceptable."

Bush added that Pearson's algebra readiness program focuses precisely on elements and skill sets cited by the National Math Advisory Panel. "Algebra builds on fractions, critical thinking and problem solving," she said. "Algebra readiness is clearly the area where we believe school districts will see the biggest impact for the money they decide to spend on new programs."

"It is discouraging that the state budget deficit is keeping some school districts from implementing these new programs at a time when they are most needed," she added.

Citing the new California Department of Education report that finds one of every four California high school students dropping out, Bush said, "Middle school is what you might call the Bermuda Triangle of education because a significant percentage of California's kids fall behind and eventually drop out of school at this level." Educators have identified the lack of understanding of basic math principles as a primary reason for this failure.

"The new approach seeks to remedy this," said Bush. "By focusing on algebra readiness with innovative, research-based programs with built-in intervention and assessment, we can not only do a better job of retaining students, but also give them the skills and confidence to realize that they can be successful in math."

Pearson's Algebra Readiness programs for California are:

  • Prentice Hall Mathematics California Algebra Readiness: An 8th-grade program grounded in research and designed to bridge the gap between basic math and algebra, with a focus on basic algebraic concepts.
  • Connecting to Algebra for Algebra Readiness - A National Science Foundation-funded, research-based Grade 8 level program. Engaging investigations, problems, and exercises support student learning, helping them to develop and maintain skills while enhancing their mathematical thinking and learning.

To preview Pearson's custom math programs for California, visit http://www.envisionmathca.com and http://www.pearsonschool.com.

About Pearson in California: Pearson, the world's leading education publisher, has been providing education materials to California schools as far back as the 1800s. You may know us individually as Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Longman, SuccessMaker, NovaNet, Educational Measurement, Educational Assessment, Learning Teams, Achievement Solutions, and so many more - names in the world of education that are recognized and respected across the State and the globe. In fact, most teachers in California have learned their profession by studying with Pearson's Merrill or Allyn & Bacon textbooks, and many have benefited from our professional development programs. Today, nearly a thousand Pearson people are living and working in the State, providing educational materials that cover the gamut from birth through professional learning. Whether in science, math, social studies, music, middle/high school language arts, English as a second language, foreign languages, or AP courses, hundreds of thousands of California's preK-12 students are learning with our Pearson products every day. In addition to Education, Pearson's other major businesses include The Financial Times Group and The Penguin Group. For more information, go to: http://www.pearsonschool.com.

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Kate Miller
Pearson
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