Whither Basic Algebra

An article about a design class prompted the following question.  What would a redesigned math curriculum look like? Current middle school/high school mathematics is in a deep, well-worn rut.  It is mostly focused on developing algebra skills useful for getting closed form expressions in calculus and is the product of a course of study designed centuries ago.  A new curriculum would have cool apps like  MotionMath, an app based on the lastest cognitive learning theory that uses modern mobile devices  but would teach the mathematics relevant to our times.  For example consider the illustrative networks(graphs) at the end of this amazing TED Talk.  My personal responses were two.  First I wanted to go sit in my little corner and just study graph theory in its purity and second I wanted to explore the peaks and valleys, the subgroups and neighborhoods of the specific graphical typography in the images.  A useful modern mathematics curriculum would include graph theory with applications, data exploration, statistics from a Bayesian point of view, systems analysis, frequency analysis, cryptography, and complexity to name a few.  Just as we do now,  the basic principles  and simple justifications can be taught early and the proofs later.  Computer simulations would be used.  These topics are now taught as upper division math courses for majors but just as real analysis stands behind freshman calculus, so could these classes support a high school course of study.  This new curriculum would entice students into the math world.  Basic arithmetic, measurement, and algebra skills are still important but could be taught as important life skills.  Calculators and computers can and are doing algebra right now.  Students need to understand what  these devices tell them and how to use their answers but this is just a start for developing the mathematical concepts needed to make sense of the modern world.

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About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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