This may shock [and perhaps outrage] some older folks, but concepts of algebra are now being taught in some schools throughout the U.S. Algebra Ugh! Lots of us groan at the word. I failed miserably in Algebra 1. But is wasn’t my fault [said the student]. Yet, it really was not mine for a couple of reasons. First, I had no pre-algebra in elementary school. Second, I had a miserable ‘teacher’ in my freshman year in high school. Third, I was severely right-brained at that time. Algebra can be deadly for right-brained kids who use images to process things. Do you recall many ‘images’ during your algebra classes? All that I recall were black scratchings on white paper or beige scratchings on green boards.
Fortunately for many children today, they are given hands-on mathematical manipulatives to explore mathematics. Yes, explore rather than head-pounding or rote learning. All that I recall from my math arithmetic classes in grade school were paper, pencil and workbooks. Sadly, some kids today are taught exactly the same way which is why, sadly, so many adults have such poor mathematical concepts.
A number of year ago, I tutored women in math- women who attended GED classes in a woman’s center in an old church basement. Most had dropped out of high school because of pregnancy and/or financial difficulties. Their math sense could fit in a thimble. Their math skills were even less, yet they needed to pass the GED exam if they had any hope for independent living in society. Imagine the algebra requirement that stood before them. These women were not dumb, but they had had little preparation for high school algebra. There were many reasons, but nonetheless, the fact was that they needed to solve algebraic problems to get their GED. Algebra was foreign to them; I may as well have been speaking Mandarin.
Take this simple equation for example: 2y = 10. “Why is there a letter in the middle of a math problem?” was the common question. Another more angry question might have been, “Why do we have to learn this s— anyway!” Luckily some of the other women would answer it, “Cause its on the GED test.” Some women dropped out and/or never came back. Regular attendance was an additional problem. A few endured.
Yet, many kindergarten children [inner city and suburban] can easily solve this same algebraic equation. How? Manipulatives like the one here. Can YOU figure out how they do it?
If you said, “Put a blue marker on the right side ’10’ and then two blue markers on the left-side ‘5’ “then you are as good as a 5-year-old. And the teacher did not tell them to do that. It was trial and error, or as the new math lingo states: guess, check and revise.
What if the child [or you] were given this problem: 3b = 7 +y What would your balance look like when got it? Could someone else have ‘balanced’ theirs with a different arrangement?
How would your balance look if it solved this equation? 10 + x = 4 + y? Are there other arrangements? Why or why not?
The women in the church basement, sadly, never touched a balance with movable blue hangers. Had they, then ‘algebra’ would not have befuddled them so intensely as it did. Kindergarten ‘play’ could have helped them experience more success in their successive school days. Yet they, like me in the 50’s, never got the chance to touch and see the relationship of numbers as well as the concept of ‘equality.’ Oh, many of the left-brained students did, or the ones who were fortunate enough to have dedicated and clever math teachers. Yet so many are not clever and cannot understand why the students ‘don’t get’ their teaching.
For more examples of the use of the balance in kindergarten classes, watch the video below.