Algebra the hurdle

Algebra: the Hurdle

High school algebra is a huge hurdle for so many teens. In recent years we have seen a significant weakness that seems to hold many STRIDES’ algebra students back: Fractions.

Go back in time and think about when your high schooler was in 4th grade, tackling fractions for the first time. Far too often, the student learns the process of moving the numbers around on a page without understanding what fractions mean. Often your elementary age child was a bit confused, but managed to make passing grades by rote memorization of the process. Now, years later, concepts that should have been learned in elementary school are fuzzy, or even absent. In algebra class the high schooler sees unexpected letters and negative numbers, and also equations with a line(!) and numbers and letters above and below. The brain rebels, and may even panic—What is this!!!

At this point, our instructors at STRIDES take a step back into fractions. We use three-dimensional plastic fraction squares alongside the simplest 4th grade fractions. (We tried circles, but students don’t progress as well.) Working on a whiteboard flat on the table (Home Depot sells a 4 x 8 foot sheet that they will cut to the size of your desktop), we start with adding simple fractions, keeping the fractions squares next to the written problem. As the students (and parents!)

Even students (and parents) who hate fractions find working with the colorful squares less stressful because they actually make sense. But don’t forget to put them back in the plastic case so you’ll have them for next time! And if you would like a demonstration of this process, feel free to give us a call: 864.246.9898.

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