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Archive for the ‘Algebra Survival Workbook’ Category

My WAGER (& DISCOUNT PLAN) to help ANYONE learn Algebra


A wager … and a plan.

I am making a wager that I can help ANYONE learn and deeply understand algebra. And I have a plan to do just that.

Algebra Tutoring Right Here!

I’ve been tutoring algebra for a long time (oh, just a bit over 30 years now), and I have developed many tips and tricks for this subject area. Not only that, but I’ve seen pretty much every mistake you can imagine. And I’ve learned how to explain why each mistake is incorrect and to help folks view each situation correctly.

So in the spirit of the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty, I say:

“Give me your confused, your bewildered, your frustrated students, yearning to comprehend, the befuddled refuse of your overcrowded classrooms. Send these, the despondent ones, your so-called failures to me. I will lift my lantern of algebraic clarity unto their puzzled eyes!”

And in fact, I am offering a special, now through the end of March. I will tutor anyone who wants algebra tutoring for the special rate of just $40/hour (+ tax if you live in New Mexico). I tutor by Skype or FaceTime, so this offer is open to anyone worldwide.

Also, for anyone who takes me up on algebra tutoring and who does three or more sessions with me, you will get copies of my Algebra Survival Guide and Workbook at a 25% discount.

To set this up, just send an email to:
josh@SingingTurtle.com
or send a text to:
505.690.2351

Remember this offer ends on 3/31/2020, so take advantage of it now!

“Algebra Survival” Program, v. 2.0, has just arrived!


The Second Edition of both the Algebra Survival Guide and its companion Workbook are officially here!

Check out this video for a full run-down on the new books, and see how — for a limited time — you can get them for a great discount at the Singing Turtle website.

 

Here’s the PDF with sample pages from the books: SAMPLER ASG2, ASW2.

And here’s the website where you can check out the books more fully and purchase the books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Remove Math Terms from Parentheses


How do you get math terms out of parentheses? And what happens to those terms when you remove the parentheses?

It seems like the process should be simple. But this issue often plagues students; they keep getting points off on tests, quizzes, homework assignments.  What’s the deal?

The deal is that there’s a specific process you need to follow when taking terms out of parentheses, and what you do hinges on whether there’s a positive sign (+) or a negative sign (–) in front of the parentheses.

But not to worry. This video on this page settles the question once and for all. Not only that, but the video provides a story-based approach that you can teach (if you’re an instructor) or learn (if you’re a student) and remember (no matter who you are). Why? Because stories are FUN and MEMORABLE.

So kick back and relax (yes, it’s math, but you have a right to relax) and let the video show you how this process is done.

And in customary style, I present practice problems (along with the answers, too) at the end of the video so you can be sure you understand what you believe you understand.

 

 

 

 

 

The “Unknown” Order of Operations


Talk about a major point that’s usually unspoken …

We make such a big deal out of the Order of Operations in Algebra, and yet there’s a second order of operations, equally important but seldom mentioned.

First, to clarify, the standard Order of Operations (caps on the two O’s to indicate this one) helps us simplify mathematical expressions. It tells us how to take a group of math terms and boil them down to a simpler expression. And it works great for that, as it should, as that’s what it’s designed for.

EXAMPLE:  this Order of Operations tells us that, given an expression like:  – 2 – 3(4 – 10), we’d first do the operations inside PARENTHESES to get – 6, then we’d MULTIPLY the 3 by that – 6 to get – 18. Then we would SUBTRACT the – 18 from the – 2, to get 16. You know, PEMDAS.

But it turns out that there’s another order of operations, the one used for solving equations. And students need to know this order as well.

In fact, a confusing thing is that the PEMDAS order is in a sense the very opposite of the order for solving equations. And yet, FEW people hear about this. In fact, I have yet to see any textbook make this critical point.  That’s why I’m making it here and now: so none of you  suffer the confusion.

In the Order of Operations, we learn that we work the operations of multiplication and division before the operations of addition and subtraction. But when solving equations we do the exact opposite: we work with terms connected by addition and subtraction before we work with the terms connected by multiplication and division.

Example: Suppose we need to solve the equation,
4x – 10 = 22

What to do first? Recalling that our goal is to get the ‘x’ term alone, we see that two numbers stand in the way: the 4 and the 10. We might  think of them as x’s bodyguards, and our job is to get x alone so we can have a private chat with him.

To do this, we need to ask how each of those numbers is connected to the equation’s left side. The 4 is connected by multiplication, and the 10 is connected by subtraction. A key rule comes into play here. To undo a number from an equation, we use the opposite operation to how it’s connected.

So to undo the 4 — connected by multiplication — we do division since division is the opposite of multiplication. And to undo the 10 — connected by subtraction — we do addition since addition is the  opposite of subtraction.

So far, so good. But here’s “the rub.” If we were relying on the PEMDAS Order of Operations, it would be logical to undo the 4 by division BEFORE we undo the 10 with addition … because that Order of Operations says you do division before addition.

But the polar opposite is the truth when solving equations!

WHEN SOLVING EQUATIONS, WE UNDO TERMS CONNECTED BY ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION BEFORE WE UNDO TERMS CONNECTED BY MULTIPLICATION OR DIVISION.

Just take a look at how crazy things would get if we followed PEMDAS here.

We have:  4x – 10 = 22

Undoing the 4 by division, we would have to divide all of the equation’s terms by 4, getting this:

x – 10/4 = 22/4

What a mess! In fact, now we can no longer even see the 10 we were going to deal with. The mess this creates impels us to undo the terms connected by addition or subtraction before we undo those connected by multiplication or division.

For many, the “Aunt Sally” memory trick works for PEMDAS. I suggest that for solving equations order of operations, we use a different memory trick.

I just remind students that in elementary school, they learned how to do addition and subtraction before multiplication and division. So I tell them that when solving equations, they go back to the elementary school order and UNDO terms connected by addition/subtraction BEFORE they UNDO terms connected by multiplication/division.

And this works quite well for most students. Try it and see if it works for you as well.

Josh Rappaport is the author of the Algebra Survival Guide and Workbook, which together comprise an award-winning program that makes algebra do-able! Josh also is the author of PreAlgebra Blastoff!, an engaging, hands-on approach to working with integers. All of Josh’s books, published by Singing Turtle Press, are available on Amazon.com

Algebra Survival e-Workbook arrives TODAY!!


The “Algebra Survival” Program goes totally electronic!

Singing Turtle Press is delighted to announce that the companion Workbook for the Algebra Survival Guide is now available in eBook format.

Algebra Survival Workbook - electronic version

e-Version of ASG Workbook ARRIVES!

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eVersion of Algebra Survival Guide ARRIVES!


The eVersion of the Algebra Survival Guide is HERE!

Amazon.com just listed the eBook TODAY, and so you can now get this book for just $9.95, and read it on ANY of these devices:

Kindle / iPhone / iPad / Android / Blackberry / PC / MAC

The standard price of the paperback book is $19.95, but now you can get the eVersion of this book, and have it with you electronically, for HALF the price  $9.95!

Algebra Survival Guide, now in convenient eVersion!

The Algebra Survival Guide, which debuted in 2000, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. It has also garnered a Parents Choice award, and it has been used in school districts all across the country as the cornerstone curriculum for Algebra Professional Development Workshops.

The book is read and used by struggling students, teachers, tutors, homeschoolers, and parents. It is an easy book to read, as it is written in a friendly Q&A conversational style. The companion workbook, soon to be available in an eVersion as well, provides thousands of additional practice problems.

Check this book out on Amazon.com at this site!

“Algebra-for-All” Strategy, Good or Bad? Get the News


Over the past 10 -15 years, many states have mandated tough new requirements that ALL students (special education students as well as mainstreamed students) take and pass Algebra 1 (sometimes higher math courses, too) in order to graduate from high school.

While that may not sound very challenging for students who do well in math, these mandates have placed major hurdles before students who struggle with math in general — and algebra in particular.

New studies have been coming out on the impact of this so-called “Algebra-for-All” teaching push. I just found an interesting article on this topic at this site.

I’m now including a general link to this math news portal — in my blogroll — as it contains a wide range of articles for math educators. Its name on the blogroll is Math Education News. Feel free to check it out any time you drop by the blog — or any time at all.

And do feel free to share your comments on the current “Algebra-for-All” push. Do you find that it is working where you live and work? Or not working? Any suggestions on how to tinker with mandates to make them work? This is an important topic since algebra is the critical “gatekeeper” course to all higher math. And what’s more, major studies have found that success in algebra is one of the key predictors of matriculation into college.

So a lot is at stake when it comes to algebra. And a lot rides on how well we as a nation help children succeed in this course.

Share your thoughts; we’re all curious to hear what you think.

Not all variables are created equal


Are all variables the same?

Does every variable serve the same purpose?

When you think about it, you’ll see that the answer is “no.” Variables serve different purposes. When we explain this to students, we help them understand how variables work. Explaining this helps students understand how algebra “works.” You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

Consider the famous slope-intercept equation:  y = mx + b

A student recently asked me:  Are the  x and y variables the same as the m and b variables? What a great opportunity to explain something important!

I explained that the x and y variables serve completely different purposes than  the m and b variables. Here’s how.

The variables m and b are what I call “identifier” variables. By which I mean that they help us identify a specific line. To explain that, I asked the student a set of questions about something everyone understands — home addresses.

What would happen, I asked, if someone wanted to know where I live, and I told him that I live at 942? The student replied that this would not be enough info.

Then I asked, what if I told this person only that I live on Vuelta del Sur (a street name where I live in Santa Fe, NM)? Again the student said that this would not be enough info.

But what if I told this person that I live at 942 Vuelta del Sur. This, the student realized, would be enough information to enable someone to find my house. (All they have to do is Google me, and they’ll have my house AND directions!)

I pointed out that a similar situation applies to lines.

If I have a specific line in mind, and I want someone else to know the line I’m thinking of, is it enough to give this person just the line’s slope? No, for it could be any line with this slope, of which there are infinitely many parallel lines. What if I don’t give the slope but I do give the line’s y-intercept? Still not enough, as there are infinitely many lines that run through this y-intercept. But what if I tell the person both the slope and the y-intercept. Aha! The student could see — through drawings I made of this situation on a coordinate plane — that when you provide both slope and the y-intercept, there is one and only one line that could be indicated.

 

Three lines — the red and blue lines have the ...

Red & blue lines have same slope, so slope alone does not indicate a specific line; Red and green lines have same y-intercept, so y-intercept alone does not identify a specific line.

 

I explained that variables like m and b, which help identify a specific line, are “identifier” variables; their job is to identify a specific line. If your students are more advanced, you can explain that there are other identifier variables in different kinds of equations. For example, in the equation of a parabola:   y – k  = a(x – h)^2, the identifier variables would be the variables a, h, and k.

But what about variables like x and y? What do they do? What is their purpose?

These variables, I explained, have a completely different purpose. I call variables like x and y “ordered-pair generators.”

To explain this, I show students a simple linear equation like  y = 2x, and demonstrate how, using a “T-table,” you can use this equation to generate as many ordered pairs as you’d like, ordered pairs like (0,0), (1,2), (2,4), (3,6), etc. Point out that you can keep going and going. And then explain that the purpose of the x and y variables is to generate the infinitely many points that make up the line.

So the m and b variables tell us where the line is, and the x and y variables allow us to find the infinitely many actual points on the line. The two sets of variables, while different in purpose, work together toward a common goal:  to give us the equation of a line.

There are other purposes that variables serve, of course. And I’ll probably describe some of the other purposes in future posts. But the main point is that it helps students to recognize that variables do serve different purposes. Armed with that understanding, they can make much more sense of algebra’s formulas and equations.

How to Survive College Algebra


Why is algebra hard for college students? Let me count the reasons …

First, the college students who struggle with with algebra are usually the same folks who struggled with algebra in high school, only older now. They hated it then, and they dread it now. It didn’t make sense then, and it still doesn’t. So they are already predisposed to struggle with this class from painful past experiences.

Another problem stems from the vocabulary of algebra. The words that are used to describe algebra are — let’s face it — intimidating! Words like: polynomial, quadratic, radicals. This is a specialized language, written in annoyingly polysyllabic Latin. And when you start to dislike a subject it is natural that you start to dislike the vocabulary of that subject. And the vocabulary of algebra is somewhat remote and cold, easy to dislike.

Another problem is the tone of the textbooks that teach algebra. I mean, if you want to make a fire, you’d probably do well to burn an algebra book, for the simple reason that the text on the pages is so DRY. I mean, take a sentence from a typical algebra book, and it will sound like this (actual quote):
“The difference between two integers is defined as the absolute value of of the difference of the absolute value of the integers.” I mean, all you’d have to do is pull out a match. It will virtually light itself when placed next to this kind of prose.

The final reason has to do with the teachers who taught algebra back in high school. Now I am not picking on all teachers, but the ones I hear about over and over in my tutoring are those that droned on and on, “Then you subtract 17 from both sides, and finally you divide both sides by 3 …” just like the textbooks, never trying to make the ideas come to life. If you have a great algebra teacher, that can make the textbook bearable. But if the teacher is as dry as the textbook, it can be impossible for some people to make the critical connections.

So what is the solution? Good teaching in high school, and great teaching in college can make a huge difference.

For students who don’t have access to great teaching, however, there is my book, the Algebra Survival Guide. As a tutor who has worked with hundreds of high schoolers and scores of college students, I know how hard these students try, and how little progress they sometimes make. So I wrote a book in plain English, a book everyone can read as easily as you’d read a good novel. My goal was to take the edge off of the intimidating quality of algebra, and from the emailed responses I’ve received, it has worked.

I also threw some humor into the book. O.K., I’m not Jack Benny, but I do make a few jokes, here and there. I mean, we all need to have a little bit of fun, even doing math.

And I worked hard to connect the ideas of algebra to real life, to make them make sense.

For example, take the problem of – 8 + 3. I liken this situation to a tug of war. There are two teams in the tug of war, a Positive Team and a Negative Team. The – 8 means that the Negative Team has 8 people pulling. The + 3 means the Positive Team has 3 people pulling. All you have to do to solve the problem is answer two questions: first, which team will win, if everyone is equally strong? The Negatives, since they have more people pulling. And then, by how many does the larger team outnumber the other smaller team? By 5, since 8 is 5 more than 3. Put your answers together, and you’ll see that the Negatives win by 5, so the answer is – 5. See how easy it can be when you relate the concepts to real life?

The Algebra Survival Guide explains many ideas this way, and it gives algebra a friendly human face.

Here’s one example of a quote from a college student who found the book helpful:

I’m a returning college adult now in the 4th week of my College Algebra course. Your book has FINALLY filled in the gaps in my earlier education … thank you (to the third power)! Thanks for the great book … 30 years of math phobia gone in 3 hours of reading … really, thank you very much!
College Student, Mary Ellen Kirian, Lake Oswego, OR

If you’d like to check out this book, just go to this Amazon page,where you can read lots of reviews.

While you’re @ Amazon, don’t forget to check out the companion Algebra Survival Workbook, with thousands of additional practice problems, which take you from understanding to mastery. You’ll find that page here.

As they used to say on TV, “Try it, you’ll like it!”

— Josh