Too much too early

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editors:

It’s difficult to tell from your article what exactly Common Core means for math changes in Carpentersville schools, but I’m troubled by this discussion of “doing algebra” in elementary school.

Very young children are not abstract thinkers, and algebra is the gateway to more abstract applications of math. That’s why it’s appropriately placed in the middle and high school years, when students’ brains are actually able to conceptualize abstract concepts more effectively.

There is a difference between teaching children to their maximum capacity at every age and forcing unready children into advanced topics and calling it “rigor.” It’s like teaching a child to read before he is ready. Some children are ready to read at age 4. Others are not until age 7. You can either spend two years trying to teach a child to read before he is ready, or three months doing the same when he is. The same is true in math, and the specific ages of readiness differ by the child.

Foundations exist because a house cannot be built without them. No one would work on a frame or roof before the foundation and call it “rigorous housebuilding.” Let’s hope this is not what is happening.

Joy Pullmann

Education research fellow, Heartland Institute

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