PALISADES PARK, NJ – For as long as most students and parents can remember, mathematics has always been regarded as a subject in which students are divided by innate ability, and educators have depended on this innate ability without answering the fundamental question: why does this distinction exist?
MEK Review knows the answer: students don’t understand variables.
BILATERAL ALGEBRAIC LITERACY
The understanding, translation, and interpretation of variables can be categorized into one essential skill set, bilateral algebraic literacy. This skill set refers to the ability to see an equation such as n(n+2) = 24 and go through the following thought process:
1. The product of a whole number, n, and 2 more than that whole number is 24.
2. The two whole numbers are factors of 24, and the numbers differ by 2.
3. The two whole numbers are 4 and 6.
4. The whole number, n, is 4.
Students have varying levels of bilateral algebraic literacy, throughout middle school, high school, and beyond. These varying levels are indicative of different levels of performance in each math level.
1. Weak literacy: Students pass Pre-Algebra with moderate to high difficulty
2. Moderate literacy: Students pass Pre-Calculus with moderate to high difficulty
3. Strong literacy: Students reach high levels of achievement on math topics from AP Calculus AB and beyond
But why is this skill set so important?
Bilateral algebraic literacy emerges from the ability to simplify an algebraic expression or equation into its core concepts and generalize it into a set of known and unknown information. This generalization gives way to application and simulation, allowing for further understanding.
Students develop this literacy in their 7th grade Pre-Algebra class, where they are introduced to these unknowns. From that point forward, these variables appear in almost every corner of the math curriculum, from the Pythagorean Theorem to derivatives and integrals.
At this point, students who have good number sense are the ones with a stronger foundation for bilateral algebraic literacy, as they have the core understanding that they need to learn to translate and interpret. These students are generally the ones who go on to perform well in their middle and high school math courses.
But the students who do not have good number sense have more difficulty, as they need to build the core understanding before translation or interpretation.
MEK CHANGES IN CURRICULUM
Traditionally, bilateral algebraic literacy was considered a skill set that was innate, developed over time through repeated practice, or not fully developed. Thus, educators waited, and are still waiting, for students to understand, translate, and interpret variables, highly dependent on student ability and accountability.
Naturally, MEK Review followed convention. But not any more.
MEK Review is changing the math curriculum to address this key deficiency and allow ALL students to perform well in ALL levels of math. It should no longer be the sole responsibility of the student to form their own understandings of concepts that they fundamentally cannot see.
Starting in Spring 2021, we will be redesigning our math curriculum to enhance the development of bilateral algebraic literacy through stronger reinforcement of algebraic concepts and targeted practice. These core pillars will take root first in our 7th grade Math MEK Learning Circles and Pre-High School Prep courses, to ensure that students have the guidance they need the moment they are introduced to algebraic variables. These pillars will be implemented throughout our entire math curriculum soon after.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our expert academic counselors and Leadership Team have kept an even closer eye on student progress to quickly and accurately identify trends and difficulties. During this process, we have noticed that what was a much more isolated deficiency in previous years has now become a widespread condition of its own. We attribute this change in trend to the remote classroom.
The aforementioned dependency on student ability and accountability now applies to all subjects, as students are responsible for their daily schedules and all homework and classwork behind closed doors. So even students who may have been able to develop their algebraic literacy in the pre-COVID classroom are left in the dark when it comes to reinforcement and targeted practice.
MEK Review is always considering new and better ways to guide our students to success. Through this change in curriculum, our students will be equipped to not only perform well but also enjoy math for years to come.
MEK Review: New Solutions. Same Quality Education.