Grammar Geek Turns Algebra Nut

I’ve found that I love demonstrating those long algebra problems on the board for the students when I substitute for math classes.  You know the problems.  They go all the way across the page.  Whether combining like terms, “please excusing my dear Aunt Sally,” or solving for x, I could do them all day long.  Upper elementary school to high school.  It’s the only part of algebra I’ve retained from college.

            I feel so competent when I know more than [or at least the same as] the students.  Being visual myself, I find the best way to instruct in math class is showing each step to the students and answering any questions they might have.  Because I know the processes, I can pull the problem apart. And I remember the rules.

            I recall taking a basic skills algebra class in college to prepare myself for college level math.  I had found it interesting that my younger fellow students all had an “Aunt Sally.”

            “It’s such an old-fashioned name,” I told the professor when I approached her with my own question.

            The professor smiled.  “No, Victoria,” she said.  “It’s a metonym, a way to remember the algebra steps.  Parentheses, exponents, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction:  Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally.”

            “Interesting.”  I blushed.  I had merely remembered the steps.  When my son finally entered upper elementary school, he learned P.E.M.D.A.S.  Same processes.

            Solving for x builds on the simplifying process to answer the equation.  The thing to remember when solving equations is to do the same mathematical processes to each side of the equal sign.  The object is to get the variable on one side and a number, the answer, on the other side of the equal sign.  To separate a variable from numbers, you perform the opposite mathematical process; i.e., subtraction when it is addition, division when it is multiplication. 

            Sorry.  I do like teaching something I know.  Of course, I probably wouldn’t give up my grammar geek status for algebra.  But it is a fun process, once you get the hang of it.

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