Algebra constitutes a major part of math curriculum, specially in high school and middle school. It forms a crucial base for several equations and operations to be dealt later in higher studies. Hence, it becomes important to get a good grip of it in early phases of learning.
Like English, Algebra is a language. It requires a good practice to become fluent in it. Students have to memorize the rules and follow them in order to solve problems smoothly. ‘How you approach certain problems?’ is a crucial practice. General perception among students is that algebra is hard and confusing, which is justifiable considering the irregularity of pattern to solve every new question. Even brightest ones at one point surrender to the complex nature of certain topics, imagine being a dyscalculic.
Algebra adds a layer of burden to the daily struggle that students with learning disability, such as dyscaculia and dyslexia, have to go through in their academics. “Numbers wasn’t enough that they have to add letters as well” is the common thought of a dyscalculic while dealing with algebra first time. While practicing more will definitely make it a bit easier but there are certain areas which we can work upon to dealt with it better. Not just dyscalculia but every other student could benefit from it. We are not going to teach you how to do algebra in this post but how you could prepare your mind well before diving into the topic to get the best output.
1. Understanding the practical nature of the question
Probably the most important part of learning any concept of the subject is to understand its practical nature. How we can apply the problem to our day to day lives? Similar is in the case of algebra. Wiping out the redundant info and disguising the quantity is basically what we do in algebra in its inital chapters. Let’s take an example:
We will use algebra to solve the problem easily and quickly.
The prices are
a = Price ofa fish = $5
b = Price of an egg = $1
c = Price of one bread= $3
=> Money needed = a + 4b + 3c
=> Money needed = $5 + 4($1) + 3($3) = $5 + $4 + $9 = $18
Now, Instead of counting each item, the equation will serve the purpose. Variations of the prices could be perfromed without having to change the equation. This is just one case, there are endless possibilities where we can make equations out of anything.
2. Practice with algebra tiles
Algebra tiles are widely used mathematical manipulatives to help students better understand algebra. Square and rectangle shaped colored tiles are used to represent numbers and variables. As per general rule, Each small square tile, the unit tile, represents number one. If we have two tiles, then we have the number two. Red colored square tiles are used for negaive numbers, while any other color could be used for positive ones. The rectangle represents the variable, x. The large square represents x2 (x to the power 2). Algebra tiles gives a better visual perspective to solve the problems. Solving expressions via. algebra tiles is a two way process – modelling the equation and equating it. Let us solve the expression 3x + 5 = 14
FIrst we will model the equation. To achieve it, Divide the sheet or board in two parts. Keep the 3 yellow rectangle tiles (representing 3x) with 5 blue square tiles (representing number 5) on the left side and 14 blue square tiles (representing the number 14) on the right.
Now that we have modeled our equation, we will going to solve it. For our equation, Our first goal is to get the 3 yellow rectangle tiles by themselves. We need to move the 5 blue square tiles .
To move them, we need to pair them up with a different colored square. As the tiles are positives, we need to pair them up with the negative number. We, thus, need equal number of red colored tiles. We remember that whatever we do to one side, we also must do to the other side. So, we also add four blue square tiles to the right side.
Now, we can take out the blue and red tiles on the left tiles as they cancel out each other. Similar we take 5 blue and as well the red tiles from the right side.
We are left with 3 yellow rectangle on the left and 9 blue square tiles on the right. Split and rearrange the 9 blue square tiles in three qual groups. Now you can get the answer by looking at the tiles i.e each yellow rectangle represents 3 blue square tiles.
3. Visualize it
Students must be provided with as much visual presentation of the topics as possible. Try drawing the problem in mind to understand it better from every aspect. Consider objects in place of numbers and variables to form the equation in mind. Students must be encouraged to visualise the problems. Take the help of manipulatives to visualize it better. Let students analyze the problem and jot down important points out of it .
4. Revision is the key
Write and revise is the mantra that not just people with dyscalculia but every student must follow. It may look time consuming but the conceptual clarification and long term retention definitely worth it. Just write whatever you’ve been taught. Mastering algebra is nothing but a game of revising and practicing it as much as possible. Discuss with your friends, peers or any guardian about it. Explore ideas, concepts and opinions around it. Sum it up and revise what you just did. You can make side notes for more clarification in future.