Archive | Understanding Variables

Stop the Shotgun Approach to Learning Algebraic Rules

Once in a while I have to hold back my chuckles when I’m tutoring. Here’s a classic situation:  a student is looking at part of a problem that has the expression:  x times x. He says he thinks the answer is (in order): “2x” Then “2x squared” Then “Zero?” … and on and on. I call this the […]

How to Decrease Algebraic Mistakes – Part 1

Algebraic expressions are covered with mental “land mines.” Step the wrong way, and an expression will blow up on the page, making it impossible for students to move in the right direction. Fortunately there’s a simple thing students can do to succeed at simplifying algebraic expressions, and that simple something is using what I call […]

How to factor out the GCF with stories

Real-life stories, related to algebraic procedures, can dramatically help students understanding both what the process is about, and how to do the process. Here I show how two real-life stories can help students master the steps required for factoring the GCF out of a polynomial.

Not all variables are created equal

Variables do not all serve the same purpose. Making this clear helps students more deeply understand algebraic equations, such as the equation for a line. This post shows how to understand the two kinds of variables in the slope-intercept form of a linear equation.