### Life After Algebra II

As the school year speeds by, rising seniors at Fairfax High are already meeting with their teachers and guidance counselors to decide which classes they should take next year. Up until this point, the math sequence is spelled out --...

By Michael Alison Chandler | February 18, 2009; 04:00 PM ET | Comments (4)

### First Semester Update

The second quarter is over. I got an A, just barely, with 94 percent. After retaking a high school Algebra II class for five months, I have learned a few things about math and myself. For a former math phobe,...

By Michael Alison Chandler | February 10, 2009; 12:50 PM ET | Comments (3)

### The Homework Debate

I have been bogged down with a head cold and I'm behind in my math class. As lesson after lesson on quadratics passes me by, I see my homework assignments piling up. The quarter is nearing an end and the...

By Michael Alison Chandler | January 15, 2009; 01:03 PM ET | Comments (7)

### Good Teaching - Art or Science?

I had my first day back in class today. We started with a lesson on graphing quadratic equations. Tricia Colclaser, the teacher, gave a mini-introduction and walked around the room while we practiced. As she checked in with everyone, Colclaser...

By Michael Alison Chandler | January 6, 2009; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (37)

### Imaginary Numbers

We are working with radical expressions this week, which means we have strayed far from the earth's surface to talk about imaginary numbers. If there were ever a good time to ask x=why?... I have some questions about these imaginary...

By Michael Alison Chandler | December 15, 2008; 11:26 AM ET | Comments (11)

### Overheard in class: "We'll take the Ferrari"

Preparation for Friday's test included a rousing game of "Road Rally Race Track." We were divided into seven teams and each assigned a little car on the white board, ranging from a taxi, a marker-drawn hooptie, and a Ferrari. Every...

By Michael Alison Chandler | December 3, 2008; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (2)

### My Teacher Won An Award

Tricia Colclaser found out last night that she won a Math Hero award from Raytheon. "A true Math Hero demonstrates an enthusiastic and creative approach to math, often utilizing new and innovative ideas in working with their students," according to...

By Michael Alison Chandler | November 25, 2008; 02:24 PM ET | Comments (1)

### Secretary Spellings Visit & Kids in the Middle

Public schools are full of special programs for kids who are struggling and for kids who are high achievers. But there's lots of room to get lost for kids in the middle. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings visited my school today...

By Michael Alison Chandler | November 19, 2008; 11:57 AM ET | Comments (3)

### Review, More Review, Some Algebra II

We started a unit today on factoring in my Algebra II class, and we spent the morning learning to add, subtract and multiply polynomials. "Who remembers from Algebra I, what you can do when you have a binomial times a...

By Michael Alison Chandler | November 13, 2008; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (2)

### Test Today, Plus Interim Grades

Test was on absolute value functions (equations, inequalities, graphs, piecewise functions, and step functions). I didn't think it was very tough, but I should not jinx myself. For those of you who want to flex your algebra muscles again, here...

By Michael Alison Chandler | November 7, 2008; 11:16 AM ET | Comments (6)

### Post-Election Truancy

Ack. I played hookie today from algebra...after a late night of watching election returns and soaking in the seismic shift this election represents. My late night turned into a late morning, and I missed a review. Alas, my delinquency has...

By Michael Alison Chandler | November 5, 2008; 01:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

### I Have a Tutor!

Her name is Lauren Sittler. She's a senior, and she's very good at math. Her first love is probably horses -- she has a pony named Munchkin -- but her second love could be math. "I just like that it’s...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 31, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

### How Quickly Do We Forget?

I visited an Algebra II class at Northern Virginia Community College last night. On the third floor of a Reston office building, beneath fluorescent lights, more than two dozen students toiled away on radical expressions they have seen once before....

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 30, 2008; 09:37 AM ET | Comments (11)

### My First A ... Almost

We got our tests on matrices back yesterday. Despite all my grief, I got what I thought was an A. "Good job," my teacher said. My first unit test was a boring B. But here it was -- a 93...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 21, 2008; 01:45 PM ET | Comments (5)

### Math--Where the Girls Are?

I went to an all-girls high school, so I never had a good sense of whether boys actually do call out all the answers or are pushed harder in math classes (two commonly cited reasons why families choose single-sex high...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 20, 2008; 11:45 AM ET | Comments (3)

### Quiz: Describe How and Why Math Works

Math test today. I'm tired. We were quizzed on solving systems of linear equations. A lot of the test focused on using matrices. We were allowed to use calculators for part of the test. I think I understand pretty well...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 16, 2008; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (9)

### Football vs. Algebra

Today is the Homecoming game at Fairfax High. The Rebels will face the Westfield High Bulldogs (by all accounts a formidable opponent). And all week the students have been getting psyched about the game. Yesterday, students were supposed to wear...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 9, 2008; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (5)

### Calculators Redux

This week in Algebra II we are studying matrices. Remember matrices? Long rows and columns of numbers you must painstakingly add or divide or labor through somehow. With two rows by three columns, we took time to calculate each equation....

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 6, 2008; 07:00 PM ET | Comments (1)

### How Much Math is Enough for College?

For students with shaky math skills, stress in the subject often comes down to one word: college. Junior year is the BIG YEAR for the college-bound, and considering that about 90 percent of Fairfax County grads go on to some...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 2, 2008; 06:01 AM ET | Comments (23)

### Algebra for All: The Push for Higher Math

Michael Alison Chandler's ongoing coverage of math education also includes an occasional series of articles in the Post newspaper. The first installment, "At Fairfax High, Another Approach As System Tries to Up Subject Appeal," ran on Sunday, Sept. 21. Many...

By Washington Post Editors | October 1, 2008; 08:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

### Room A-142

Tricia Colclaser’s second-period Algebra II class (which, mysteriously, takes place first thing in the morning) is what many students call “regular math.” It’s not honors, not International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement. It's not taken by tweens whose math skills are...

By Michael Alison Chandler | October 1, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

### Wasn't Once Enough?

I am not a math person. Let me be clear. Mental math makes me nervous. In high school, algebra made me sulk. I survived pre-calculus 15 years ago largely because college was in sight. To me, college was defined as...

By Michael Alison Chandler | September 30, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (33)