Kids and adults who struggle with algebra need the best algebra help.
Fortunately, help is readily available.
Algebra is an abstract language. Success with algebra involves understanding the symbols and grammar of algebra, as well as the concepts of algebra.
But students have different learning styles. For practically all students, a visual approach is helpful. Some students may need a concrete, hands-on approach. Some do well even with an abstract approach, provided it is presented clearly and logically.
Below I offer some suggestions that may enable you to provide the best algebra help to your son or daughter if you are a parent or to your students if you are a classroom teacher.
Most of the ideas will pertain to the middle school and high school years, although some will pertain to the elementary grades.
“The information I like most about these particular best algebra help tips is that they take into account all the different learning styles – the visual, auditory and kinesthetic,” says Pat Wyman, Founder of HowToLearn.com.
Best Algebra Help Tip #1: Video Clips and Webinars
My first recommendation is to direct your son or daughter to the Khan Academy for the best algebra help strategies, especially if your child is a visual/abstract thinker.
On the Khan Academy website, the presenter, Sal, has a knack for clarifying ideas in bite-size pieces with the help of clear illustrations.
Many video clips are only a few minutes long and he covers the full range of algebra topics. His soothing voice has provided algebra help to many thousands of students.
If your older child has difficulty with basic algebraic concepts and cannot solve equations such as 4x + 3 = 3x + 9 or 2(3x +1) = 2x + 10, I would recommend the Borenson.com website.
You will find on this website a visual and hands-on approach that will enable your child to understand algebraic equations and verbal problems that may have previously stumped him or her.
The approach developed by Dr. Borenson has also been very successfully and widely used in the United States with children of ages 8 -12.
Fortunately, a free introductory webinar is available every two weeks on the Borenson.com website.
The ideas presented will enable you to provide the best algebra help on essential concepts to your child or students.
Best Algebra Help Tip #2: Avoid Relying on Memorization
Frequently students have difficulty with algebra because they attempt to memorize rules, rather than trying to develop an understanding of concepts.
Let’s consider, for example, the subject of exponents. A student may vaguely remember that 20 has the value of 0, 1, or 2. But which is it?
If the student is relying only on her memory, and her memory fails her, the best she can do is to take a guess at the answer. A student does not wish to be in this position!
Best Algebra Help Tip #3: Focus on Conceptual Understanding.
Let’s look at the above problem and see what happens if the student thinks conceptually.
We assume the student knows the basic definition of an exponent. In other words, the student knows, for example, that 23, is 2x2x2 or 8. The student now looks for a pattern:
23 = 2x2x2=8
22 = 2×2 = 4
21 = 2
Careful observation reveals that, as the exponent decreases by one, the answer is halved: 8, 4, 2. Hence, the student can conclude that if we diminish the exponent by one again, the answer will again be halved; hence it is reasonable to suppose that 20 = 1.
And that is indeed correct, thus a quick best algebra help strategy is to encourage the student to think in terms of patterns.
Best Algebra Help Tip #4: Let your natural curiosity allow you to explore
Once you obtain 20 = 1, by observing the above pattern, it is only natural to inquire, “I wonder what 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 would be?”
Since with each diminishing of the exponent by 1, the value is halved, we have 2-1 = 1/2, 2-2 = ¼, 2-3 = 1/8. In other words, 2-n = 1/2n.
In working with your child, encourage such exploration or algebraic thinking.
Best Algebra Help Tip #5: Learn Basic Algebraic Notation
Students who try to memorize algebraic notation will make errors such as writing down a sum of 5a for the value of 2a + 3. Likewise, they will have difficulty finding the value of 2a+3 if, say, a = 25.
One way to help students understand the meaning of 2a + 3 is to verbalize the problem as “two a’s plus 3”, in other words, we have a + a + 3. Hence the expression has a value of 53 when a=25.
Best Algebra Help Tip #6: Learn to Evaluate Expressions
In working with 2nd graders, it is helpful to make the process more concrete. First, we tell the student that “a” stands for an apple and “b” stands for a banana.
So, what is 2a + 3a? It is 5a, since two apples and three apples are 5 apples. In this manner we build up to an expression such as 2a + 3a – a + 3b – b.
Once the students simplify this expression to 4a + 2b, we then ask the students for the cost of the bunch if an apple costs $1 and a banana costs $2. Young students have no trouble figuring this out, and quickly come up with the answer of $8.
Very soon, we can provide problems in standard algebraic notation and ask the students for the value of 3a + 4b, if a=3 and b=2. The best algebra help strategy is one that enables students to learn because it enables them to understand each step of the process.
In part II of this article, I will provide specific algebra help tips to enable a student to solve simple algebraic equations with unknowns on both sides. I will also explain the difference inductive and deductive reasoning, and why it is important for students to understand this distinction.
Copyright© 2011 by Henry Borenson, Ed.D.
For more information on the best algebra help visit either site, Borenson.com or Khan Academy.
About the author:
Dr. Henry Borenson is the inventor of Hands-On Equations, an approach which utilizes the different learning styles of all kids.
His program is used successfully by over a million students.
FREE interactive webinars about Hands On-Equations are offered every two weeks. See part 2 of his article shortly on best algebra help.