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Making Algebra Work: Instructional Strategies that Deepen Student Understanding

This webcast, Making Algebra Work: Instructional Strategies That Deepen Student Understanding was coordinated by The Center on February 18, 2008.

Webcast panel of four speakers.

Teacher showing a math concept using graphs.

Teacher showing a math concept using formulas.
Video from the webcast (WindowsMedia system requirements).
  1. Complete video from the webcast
  2. Sections from the webcast
    • Part One
    • Part Two
    • Part Three
  3. Additional video from Terri Bullock's class and Dr. Jon Star's commentary on that video.
  4. You may also request a DVD of the webcast video.
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About the Webcast
This webcast focuses on the need for challenging mathematics courses—especially algebra—and mathematics instructional strategies to help students learn. Geared toward researchers, mathematics teachers at the middle school and high school levels, district-level mathematics experts, principals, and preservice educators, the hourlong webcast addressed the following questions:

  • Just what is “algebra”?
  • Why are students having trouble with it in our schools?

Importance of Mathematics
Challenging mathematics for most high school students is the “gatekeeper that either opens or shuts the doors to great opportunities,” according to a fact sheet developed by Achieve Inc., an organization established by the nation’s governors and business leaders to help prepare young people for postsecondary education, work, and citizenship.

The fact sheet points to the research on mathematics courses. Clifford Adelman’s longitudinal studies of student course-taking found that “the highest level of math taken in high school has the most powerful relationship to earning a bachelor’s degree”—regardless of ethnicity, income, or the education levels of a student’s parents. Adelman also found that high school students who complete advanced algebra “more than double their chances of earning a four-year college degree. Those who do not take challenging math courses are much more likely to end up in remedial courses and are more likely to drop out.”

Featured Speakers
Denise Walston is the senior coordinator for mathematics at Virginia's Norfolk Public Schools, a position she has held since 1994, and an adjunct faculty member at Old Dominion University. She has more than 30 years of experience in education and previously taught high school mathematics. She is also a member of the management team for a National Science Foundation-funded grant that is focused on preparing mathematics specialists in Grades K-8. In addition to holding undergraduate and graduate degrees in mathematics and mathematics education, she has been a Woodrow Wilson Master Teacher.

Jon R. Star Jon R. Star, Ph.D., is assistant professor of education at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former middle school and high school mathematics teacher. His current research focuses on students’ learning of mathematics, particularly algebra. He has published in top-tiered journals in mathematics education and educational psychology; is coauthor of a U.S. Department of Education practice guide titled Encouraging Girls in Math and Science; and is a coprincipal investigator on two large projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education, one which studies the role of contrasting examples in algebra learning. He earned his doctorate in education and psychology at the University of Michigan.

Supplemental resources recommended by Jon R. Star:

  • The development of flexibility in equation solving by Jon R. Star and Colleen Seifert
  • Flexibility in problem solving: The case of equation solving by Jon R. Star and Bethany Rittle-Johnson
  • Does Comparing Solution Methods Facilitate Conceptual and Procedural Knowledge? An Experimental Study on Learning to Solve Equations by Bethany Rittle-Johnson and Jon R. Star
  • Encouraging Girls in Math and Science, an Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) Practice Guide from the U.S. Department of Education

James M. Rubillo is executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and previously worked in public education for 36 years in a variety of roles. He served as professor of mathematics, chairperson of the department of mathematics and computer science, and associate dean for information systems and services at Bucks County Community College, in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and also was a high school teacher and department chair. He was inducted into Hall of Fame of the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by West Chester University.

Mike DeGraba is a retired mathematics teacher who taught for 31 years in the classrooms of Maryland's Montgomery County Public Schools. Currently, he substitutes in middle and high schools and is involved in the county’s Instructional TV. He is in his 15th year as cohost of Homework Hotline Live!, an interactive program where students call in for assistance on homework, and as host and writer of The Math Dude, an award-winning series of programs designed to support the Algebra I curriculum.


System Requirements
To watch and listen to the live webcast, you will need an Internet connection, a computer with speakers, and Windows Media Player (Version 9 or later).
  • Windows Media Player
    Click here to download Windows Media Player.

  • Flip4Mac
    Click here to download FLIP4MAC, a plug-in that allows users of Apple's QuickTime video player to view Windows Media video files.

Test System Capabilities
Click here to test your system capabilities by viewing a streaming video from our video archives.