Algebra Project Teaches Miami Kids To Write Better Math Problems

Jul 28, 2014

Algebra Project founder Bob Moses.
Credit miller_center / Flickr

Fifty years ago Bob Moses organized volunteers to register voters in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.

And for decades, Moses has been fighting for civil rights as an educator.

He won a MacArthur Genius Grant to develop a new way to teach algebra in largely low-income and minority schools.

The Algebra Project shows students how to translate mathematics into common language and back -- to simplify algebra.

For example, students start with a plain statement like "Jesus' height mark is higher than Chris'." But working together, they convert the statement to "the height marks, which are above Chris'."

While that statement sounds strange, it's still easier to understand than the traditional language of algebra. 

Then students swap nouns for the variables and relative pronouns for mathematical statements. So "X such that X is above C." Finally, students convert the statement entirely into algebraic symbols. 

The project is starting its third class at Miami Northwestern High School.

Moses sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about what he's learned from the Algebra Project, how the project is different and why education is a civil right.