Math Talks have become a go-to routine for many math teachers in their response to the new wave of math standards that call for a much greater emphasis on requiring students to justify their solutions, to communicate their mathematical reasoning, to make arguments with math, and to think critically about the mathematical reasoning and arguments of others.
Should High School Students Be Required to Take Algebra? Debating the Matter in Class Using SPontaneous ARgumentation
A debate has broken out over the past few years in (and beyond) education circles over whether algebra should be a high school graduation requirement. The controversy in its current iteration was fueled when the Common Core elevated algebra to a privileged position in secondary math education. Then Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the case for the standards’ commitment to algebra in a 2011 speech to the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics.
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear to the country — not just to you guys as teachers — that algebra is a key, maybe the key, to success in college. Students who have completed Algebra II in high school are twice as likely to earn a degree as those who didn’t. Algebra teaches students reasoning and logic leading to academic success not just in math but across the curriculum.
The Stock Market Sector Scuffle teaches math-based financial literacy using a real-world scenario in which students have to produce and analyze a financial data set in order to build arguments to convince “investors” that their sector-based stock portfolio holds the greatest promise of financial returns.
Argument-Centered Education is working with partner high schools right now on implementing a variation (and somewhat of a simplification) of the Justify & Critique activity for mathematics classrooms.
This version of the argument-based activity has the same warrants for its use as were laid out in a version previously posted here in The Debatafier on algebraic relationships in two variables, and the same alignment with Common Core and NCTM standards that elevate meta-cognition, ability to communicate how math principles work in solutions, and mathematical reasoning process over product.
Current standards in mathematics require that students be able to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others” (Common Core Standards, Standards of Math Practice 3). Further, “mathematically proficient students . . . justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others.” This activity has students justifying and making arguments for their solutions to higher-order thinking math questions, and it has students questioning or critiquing the solutions of their classmates.