Seeking Depth in Algebra 2

Henri Picciotto

The problem in Algebra 2: too many topics, too many formulas that mean too little to most students.


I propose a partial solution: teach fewer topics, in more depth, to inject meaning into the course; provide access to all students through carefully selected tools, and still try to challenge the strongest students.

Blog post: In Defense of Algebra 2

Available on this site:

Iterating Linear Functions from The Mathematics Teacher (with Jonathan Choate), and Algebra: Themes, Tools, Concepts (with Anita Wah). Also there: links to GeoGebra applets, and a bit on iterating non-linear functions and chaos.

Sequences and Series from Algebra: Themes, Tools, Concepts

Intro to linear programming: Letters and Postcards

Hands-on approach to quadratics and completing the square, with connections to graphing: Algebra Lab Gear: Algebra 1, by Henri Picciotto. (Available from Didax.) Get started here.

A visual explanation of completing the square.

More on parabolas and quadratics.

Animation to explain the sine curve.

Geometry of the Ellipse

Exponential Functions

Electronic Graphing

Super-Scientific Notation (an introduction to logarithms)

Perspective (lab on inverse variation, similar triangles review.)

Worksheets and games about complex numbers.


Naoko Akiyama and Scott Nelson had designed a one-hour presentation based on the Math 3 curriculum which we've all taught, and which was largely developed by me at the Urban School of San Francisco. I later joined them to expand the presentation into a 3-hour minicourse, which we presented at the California Math Council, Southern Section (Palm Springs, November 2001) and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (San Antonio, April 2003.) I updated it in 2011 to present at an NCTM summer institute.

Download the slides or view a short version on line.

2011 version of the slides, as a QuickTime movie, including animations (5.3 MB). Corresponding handout (3.6 MB).

P icon
Related pages on this site:

Algebra: Themes, Tools, Concepts
More algebra links
Geometry of the Conic Sections
Project SEED