Equity and Access in Algebra




Margaret Bourke-White


The Journey is the Destination



For most of the twentieth century, the study of algebra was reserved for those students who were entering high school and were considered to be mathematically inclined (Van de Walle, 2007). The accompanying pedagogy was focused primarily on the manipulation of symbols and the solving of equations. Today, in many school systems, instruction in algebra begins as early as kindergarten and focuses mainly on the development of concepts such as identifying patterns through the use of concrete materials, the insertion of relevant representations to stand for unknown quantities, the comprehension of numerical relationships, the connection of these relationships to generalized functions, and the interpretation of equal signs as indicating equality on both sides of the equation (Van de Walle, 2007). Here are some further issues to consider.











The goal of equity is to offer all students access to the rigorous study of algebra. Here are some additional strategies to help underrepresented groups.

Gender (Van de Walle, 2007)

The belief that mathematics is a male domain persists in our society and is held by both sexes. Since many of the differences in learning between boys and girls are socially constructed, and not biological, awareness and appropriate reactions by the teacher will be salutary.

The Gifted (Van de Walle, 2007)

The term "mathematically talented" is a function of ability, motivation, experience and opportunity.

Students with Intellectual Disabilities (Van de Walle, 2007)

Children with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities (IQ scores between 50 and 75) will have circumscribed mathematical reasoning.

Students with Learning Disabilities (Van de Walle, 2007)

These students are mentally capable, and not retarded. Often there have perceptual (auditory and visual impairments) and cognitive difficulties. This may affect memory, or the ability to speak or express themselves in writing, perceive auditory or written instructions, or integrate abstract ideas.

Students with Memory Deficits (Van de Walle, 2007)

These can be short or long term impairments.

Students with Integrative Deficits (Van de Walle, 2007)

Children who have difficulties with abstract ideas and conceptualization have integrative deficits.

Students with Attention Deficits (Van de Walle, 2007)

These children have chronic problems with attention span, impulse control, and sometimes hyperactivity.


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