Introduction to Algebra
2b or Not 2b?
Algebra, a word that strikes fear in the hearts of most adults, just think of what it does to the children! A topic already so abstract, when taught through the restrictive lens of formulae, simply becomes too dry and too daunting a task. That has been one of the greatest failings of the conventional approach to mathematics, and one of the sole reasons why kids are so mortified of math.
The Big Idea: What is Algebra?
The core driving principle behind algebra is to try and give definition to the undefined or in other, more technical words, abstraction.
A lot of mathematics is the study of variables. As the name itself suggests, one can’t simply define variables for all situations and thus the need to develop a branch of study that addresses this issue. Therefore, algebra was developed and till this day, is studied as a means by which we define the behavior of variables.
How do I understand?
The foundational nature of algebra
Algebra in and of itself forms an entire branch of mathematics, however, it does require a firm grasp of Integers, Rational Numbers, Exponents and visualisation of patterns. Once your child has gained confidence in these foundational topics, do they dip their toes in the vast ocean of algebra.
How do I visualise algebra?
The primary difficulty faced by both children and adults alike is difficulty in visualising algebra. The root of the problem lies in the fact that algebra is always introduced to us as a means to “Find X”.
This leads to the common misconception that variables are entities that can only have one value. Therefore, when kids are asked to extend the concept of variables beyond that of solving for X as they are unable to see that in reality a variable is a mathematical concept that can take any value necessary to satisfy a given equation based on certain conditions.
Therefore, it is a good practice to enable your child to visualise problems solved with algebra, without assigning values, and rather have them rely on solely their visualisation and pattern matching skills.
Here are the few links that will take you through the journey that every Cuemath students undertakes in the pursuit of understanding Algebra Basics along with practice worksheets:
- Algebraic Expressions and their Components
- Addition and Subtraction of Algebraic Expressions
- Multiplication and Division of Algebraic Expressions
- Factorization of Algebraic Expressions
- Algebraic Identities
How do You Teach Algebra?
Teaching algebra can prove to be a challenge as visualizing the abstract can be a slight challenge. However, if you follow these few simple steps, not only does the teaching experience becomes easier, but it also makes the learning more enriching and engaging.
Chunking: The concept of chunking is very straightforward and highly effective. It involves throwing in old concepts, that help build towards related topics in the subject matter being pursued currently, to help jog the mind and refresh previously learnt and pertinent concepts. So, go ahead, throw in a few problems of basic operations using numbers, just to mix things up a bit!
Flash Cards: Flash cards are an excellent tool to keep your child on their toes throughout the day. Set up a 30-minute revision cycle wherein your child solves a series of rapid fire, conceptual questions of Algebra. Make sure they note their score and try and improve both time and accuracy.
Common misconception that arises while studying Algebra
As children aren’t used to variables, they end up with the belief that variables are substitutes for numbers. This misconception primarily arises due to the fact that children end up using variables in equations with conditions with numbers till the end of High School. In reality, an algebraic expression is simply a standardised way to represent language statements mathematically. They don’t simply represent numbers; they can represent anything.