For algebra, spreadsheets beat newer teaching tools

If you do a search on “from arithmetic to algebra” as a verbatim phrase, you’ll get about 600 hits, with the ones from Google Books reaching back into the nineteenth century, InformationWeek reports. About three out of every four will be about helping students make the transition from arithmetic to algebra — it has been known for a very long time that that’s where we lose many people who are never able to advance much further in math. As I noted before, 25 years ago RAND surveyed the then-nascent field of educational software and found many effective arithmetic teaching programs and practically nothing that taught any of the important aspects of algebra (abstract relations, strategy, fundamental concepts and so on)…

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