Algebra? It’s Just a Box!

Algebra is a scary word. I know because it scared me when I was younger. I hated maths at school. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t want to understand it and I have no idea how I managed to get my maths O’level! It’s only since deciding, later in life, that I wanted to become a teacher that I have relearned maths and, thanks to family and this brilliant book by Derek Haylock, discovered that it doesn’t have to be hard.

I can remember sitting in lessons, struggling with numbers and then being horrified when suddenly we had letters thrown in as well. That didn’t make sense – letters belonged in English lessons, not maths.

Given all that, I can understand why children panic when it comes to algebra. The best way I have found to reassure them is to tell them it’s just a box.

5 + n = 7 looks impossible to some children, so we take the letter away and replace it with a box.

5 + □ = 7 is the sort of thing they’ve been used to since KS1.

Once they are happy with this it’s only a small step to coping with 5n = 20. They agree that writing 5 x n = 20 would be confusing because it looks like two letters, but it’s still algebra so it’s still just a box, so they just add in the x themselves. So now we have:

5 x □ = 20 . Simple!

I’ve had children go from tears and tantrums to smiles of delight in about 10 minutes, as they ask “Is that it?” From then on if you ask them if algebra is difficult they’ll smile at you and say, “No. It’s just a box.”

For maths or English tuition in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall area visit www.sjbteaching.com.  For links to other interesting education-related articles, please like my facebook page.

Related posts: Advanced Algebra    Teaching Times Tables    Teaching Telling the Time

Y is for…

Y is for…You. That’s right.  The A-Z of tips for learning is almost finished so this is a reminder that the only person who can decide whether to try them again is you.

There are lots of people around you to help and support you: your parents or carers, your teachers, your tutor if you have one, but they can’t improve for you. If you want to improve at something, it is you that needs to make the effort.

If you already have that’s great news and you can give yourself a pat on the back. If you haven’t yet, why not read all the information in this A-Z again and then decide to go for it?

Related post: X is for…   Z is for…

Maths with spaghetti

I love these ideas for practical maths lessons with spaghetti – wish we could have had maths lessons like these when I was at school.

Getting Children Speaking in the MFL Classroom

Book - KS3 French Speaking ActivitiesHow do you get your class speaking more of a language? I came across these great books recently which are packed with interesting ideas.

There is a KS2 and a KS3 version of the book, but the blurb on them recommends getting just one or the other as the content is very similar. I’ve been using the KS3 book with upper KS2 with no problems. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to use many of them yet, but I’m itching to get a chance.

My Year 6 French beginners really enjoyed the survey where they had to find the name and age of everyone in the class. Obviously they already knew the real names and ages of their classmates, so I gave each of them a card with a French name, an age between 1 and 12 (as those were the only numbers we’d learnt) and a symbol to show how they were feeling.

You do need to monitor this activity quite closely, as some of the children will try to take the easy way out and copy answers over other pupil’s shoulders, but on the whole I found that the children had fun with it, and I heard lots of good French spoken in the classroom,

What activities or resources do you use to increase the amount of language spoken in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

X is for…

X is for…eXtra help. Sometimes people need a little extra help to learn this. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it can be tricky to learn in a class with 29 other children. This is where private tutors can help. Private tuition is usually for an hour a week, but it can be more or less depending on what your family wants for you. It will probably happen in your own home, where you feel comfortable. It can be short term, just to help you catch up on one or two particular things you missed in school, or longer term if you find lots of things difficult. If you live in north Birmingham you could ask you parents or carers to have a look at my website to see how I could help you.  If you live in other parts of the country I may be able to recommend someone, or if not there is always Google.

Related post: W is for…   Y is for…