Labor Day is fast approaching and you can almost smell the students at the front door of your classroom. Another year and another sixty or so Algebra I students to grapple with. And although the first few weeks might go fine, you know that as you hit the third chapter or so of the text, the kids will start having problems. You dread having to explain things over and over again, and you loathe grading those awful tests. You just can’t understand how the students don’t get it. To you it’s all trivial but to them it’s relativistic mechanics. Ponder this situation as you may, what you might not have realized is that if you slay the demons first, the rest is… well easy.
What do I mean by slay the demons first? In mathematics, as in other things in life, there are demons: those pesky, nasty creatures that serve to torment, vex, and thwart any hope at success. For the teacher of algebra, the demons are those nasty pitfalls into which students constantly fall and toward which they are constantly drawn. Almost like unavoidable temptations, these demons draw students into their realm and then wreak havoc with their algebra grades. If you, as the teacher, can declaw these creatures and deprive them of their strength, then you can get your students on the road to health and get their grades soaring into the stratosphere.
Rather than concern yourself with rushing through the course curriculum, you should spend the initial few weeks of class setting the stage to disempower these demons. After all, what good is it if you are on track with the course outline but more than half of your students are lost in the dust? Specifically, I am talking about teaching students the basic terms like variable, coefficient, and exponent. Moreover, students need to understand the invisible demons like 1 and -1 as “hidden” coefficients. You know what havoc these numbers create in all kinds of expressions.
Spend time going over these basics until the kids have an intuitive understanding of what these symbols and expressions mean. This name also gives them a visual with which to anchor the technique or method to their inner mind. Such nomenclature is more than just witty and humorous creation: it’s clever teaching strategy.
Teachers, do yourself a favor when the next Labor Day rolls around. Invest a good deal of time insuring that your kids have the tools to do algebra. Get a book on the pitfalls of algebra or study my techniques in my series of ebooks. Give these to the kids and watch them master this subject. If you do, the demons will no longer haunt them–or you.