No, Seriously… I Need Your Help

Alright, my head is about to explode.  For the next two days I’ll be sitting here in a room all alone trying to figure out how the heck we are supposed to bridge this gap. I have all the tools ready to go(computers, legal pads, pens, state framework,etc.). And all of a sudden it hits me.  The rules of math have come about because they were necessary.  For example, Natural numbers work until you try to subtract.  Then you have to have integers. Integers are fine until you divide, which leads to Rational numbers.  The Rational numbers  break down when you try to find the side length of a square with an area of 15.  Take the kids on this tour and we get to say: “Okay class, we have just discovered the Real Number system.”

We have exponents and scientific notation because it get really tedious to multiply (5,000,000,000)(8,000,000) by hand.  We introduce the symbols and variables because we don’t want to have to work out every single case for every single situation. We generalize because mathematicians are inherently lazy.  We truly find the shortest distance between two points. Kids are inherently lazy; they know the shortest distance between homework and their XBox.  Hey, we have someting in common.  How do we expolit that commonality in order to have kids “discover” algebra for themselves? How do we scaffold our entire curriculum, so that kids move from the Natural Numbers to Projectile Motion in such a way that they actually see how there is a need for it?

I realize that I am probably not saying anything you all haven’t already discovered for yourselves.  But, before I go and reinvent this wheel, I would like to know what you have all been doing to get this Algebra bus rollin’.

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3 Responses to “No, Seriously… I Need Your Help”


  1. 1 Sarah April 28, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Reaction halfway through the first paragraph is to link you to John and Betty’s Journey into Complex Numbers. Sam Shah shared it back in the fall and I keep loving it’s usefulness, because it does say this works great until ____ happened.

    I haven’t found anything with Algebra that I like as much. No system that screams, keep coming back to me. Really, not sure why I’m commenting except to share the one link.

  2. 2 David Cox April 29, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Thanks for the link Sarah. That is great. I am wondering if an entire course can be created by using that template. Start with the Natural numbers and end up with quadratics. Man, this stuff would make more sense to the kids.

  3. 3 AlgebraJoe May 24, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    The main post describes what is often taught at the beginning of Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 — before the topics move onward. No harm in giving this numbers instruction. It only helps.


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