Focusing on “Tough to Teach” Topics in Algebra

Creating resources focused on algebra I topics that teachers or students find challenging to teach or learn is the focus of the Developing Algebra Resources for Teaching (DART) project. The degree of interest in this area was highlighted when the attendance at a conference, co-sponsored by Texas Instruments, to introduce the project and recruit teachers who may want to participate far exceeded expectations. Gail Burrill, from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and a consultant with Texas Instruments, spoke to seventy-six conference attendees about some of what she saw as the most difficult topics and shared some solutions using technology. Following the conference, thirty teachers were recruited to participate in the project, which will work with teachers to identify what they consider especially difficult-to-teach topics in algebra, research these topics, and develop materials to improve their teaching. Some of the areas this group of teachers identified include proportional reasoning, linear equations, systems of equations, and functions. The project will comprise a series of professional development sessions where teachers will work in collaborative professional learning communities with each other and with CRDG curriculum developers to think about better ways to teach some of these topics and to create replacement units to use in their classrooms.