Saturday, April 3, 2010

Death By Algebra

What is algebra exactly; is it those three-cornered things? - J.M. Barrie

J.M. Barrie, beloved playwright and author of Peter Pan, was obviously not particularly enraptured by algebra. In fact, many students, at one time or another, will probably hate algebra. Shocker, I know. There’s even an “I hate algebra” group on Facebook. Some students will mutter about how learning algebra is a waste of time – when will they ever use it?? – but the fact is, they will indeed use it throughout their lives. Calculating costs, profits, interest rates, and distance are just a few examples of how algebra is applied in the real world.

There are some good free Web-based resources available for students who need extra support or practice in math. This week, I highlight three pre-algebra resources by Algebra2Go, a collection of math resources by Larry Perez, a mathematics professor at Saddleback College in California. The pre-algebra portion of the site (he also offers beginning algebra and other resources) is broken into units, which are further subdivided into lessons. Each lesson offers a video tutorial where Prof. Perez and his “student” Charlie work through algebraic concepts step-by-step. Each lesson is supplemented by video worksheets, online quizzes, homework sets, and class notes (which are available in both English and Spanish formats). While Algebra2Go was initially created to help support Saddleback College students, many of the materials are appropriate for middle and high school students. With help like this, your students may revive enough to actually enjoy algebra.

Pre-Algebra: Addition and Subtraction
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit is divided into 3 sections: Digits and Place Value, Addition (which includes rounding numbers and finding perimeter), and Subtraction, for a total of 13 individual lessons. Students learn to add and subtract negative and positive integers. Some class notes are also available in MP3 and WMA formats – good for loading onto an iPod.

Pre-Algebra: Integers
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit offers 6 separate lessons, all with video tutorials and supporting materials on inequalities, absolute value, addition and subtraction with negative numbers, and multiplication and division with negative numbers. Students can click on icons to produce number lines to help them solve problems.

Pre-Algebra: Variables, Expressions and Equations
Subjects: Algebra
Grade: 7-12, College

This unit offers 4 lessons on combining like terms, the distributive property, and solving equations. I can personally vouch for the tutorials on the distributive property and combining like terms: my middle schooler used these to catch up in class after being out sick for a few days. The interactive online quizzes for each lesson are also a nice touch, with usually 3 different quizzes available per lesson.

~Joann's Picks 4/3/10~

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