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Everywhere we turn these days we encounter another article, report, or book on the importance of algebra. In 2000, the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM]) made algebra one of the five mathematics content standards for preK–12 mathematics. NCTM describes algebra as a way of thinking that cuts across all math content areas and unifies the curriculum. Yet 12 years after this major publication, many national and international reports,1 in acknowledging a serious national mathematics problem, consistently identify algebra as a central concern. Why? Because the mathematics achievement curve begins a sharp decline as ...

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