Unintended Consequences of Teaching “Habits of Mind” for Algebraic Thinking

traditional math

(This is a modified version of an article that appeared in Education News on January 28, 2013. )

The idea of whether algebraic thinking can be taught outside of the context of algebra has attracted much attention over the past two decades.  Interestingly, the idea was  raised as a question and a subject for further research in an article appearing in American Mathematical Society Notices which asks,  “Is there evidence that teaching sense making without algebra is more or less effective than teaching the same concepts with algebra?” I sincerely hope someone follows up on this question.

The term “habits of mind” comes up repeatedly in discussions about education — and math education in particular. The idea that teaching the “habits of mind” that make up algebraic thinking in advance of a proper algebra course has attracted its share of followers. Teaching algebraic habits of mind has been tried…

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