Confusion of algebra
Name: melissa a jacobson
Date: Around 1995
Why is algebra so confusing to so many people?
Because it is so badly taught.
Hey, let me tell you guys a story.
I went to school over here in North America as a kid (actually in Canada),
and then spent a year in England for grade 5. They were doing algebra (real
simple stuff) already (and actually they put me back a grade too). And I
was totally confused. I did great in math over here - you know, multiplica-
tion, long division, etc., but I had no clue as to what this algebra stuff
was. I just asked my friends how to do the stuff, and plugged away, filling
in using the methods they said to use, but it just did not make any sense.
I mean, why was x equal to one thing in one equation and another in the
next? And how were you supposed to know the x that happened to work was the
only one that would? I do not remember the full extent of my confusion, but
I do remember how complicated it all seemed. And then, about halfway
through the year, it suddenly clicked! But I remember how challenging it
was at first. Basically, I would say algebra just does not come naturally
(most of mathematics does not) even to people who seem to be very mathemati-
cally skilled. There is a learning process, and if the individual involved
clues out, does not put the effort into it, misses the couple of classes
that really would have helped, or whatever, then they are out of luck,
unless they figure it out somehow later on. But then they are way behind
everybody else. So, maybe it is partly the teachers' fault, but I think
there ought to be a better way of getting ideas into all of our heads!
I was just the opposite: arithmetic was one of my poorest subjects until
math became more than arithmetic, i.e., algebra. Then it was one of my best
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Update: June 2012