Do you wonder if your children should be using a calculator “at their age”? Are you a fan of calculators, but have friends who aren’t? Are your friends “into” calculators while you oppose them?
I often hear people say that children 50 years ago understood math concepts more quickly. Although our parents weren’t taking classes called algebra in the 7th grade, they were doing algebra in the 7th grade.
Algebra is arithmetic.
There are two fundamental and rarely understood facts about algebra:
- Algebra is arithmetic with one or more numbers in disguise.
- Algebra has exactly the same rules as arithmetic.
Which means if you can do arithmetic you already know how to do algebra!
Our parents or grandparents, 50 or even 30 years ago, weren’t using calculators. They had to apply all the rules of arithmetic to get the job done. Which means that they had to apply all the rules of algebra.
Teaching them a class called “Algebra” was much easier because of this.
What are the rules?
Children could get practice mentally multiplying things like 3 x 86 and do 3(80+6) = 240+18=268. With this practice, they are ready for 4x(3y+2z) = 12xy+8xz.
If they never have to multiply 3 x 86 in their head, they never get the experience of the distributive property. Which means teaching them 4x(3y+2z) = 12xy+8xz will cause anxiety and frustration. They see it as “magic” or “something you made up just to confuse me.”
Give them the tools they need.
Refuse to let students have the calculator. Let them have the tool of the distributive property for algebra before you teach them “Algebra”. Give them the benefit our parents and grandparents had!
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