Algebra: Grade Less, Teach More
A tool that improves algebra students’ procedural fluency
As educators, our job revolves around teaching students the skills and motivation needed to expand their opportunities. This may be why new importance is being placed on helping students develop procedural fluency in mathematics, rather than simply memorizing facts or procedures. Conventional procedural fluency in algebra asserts that students start by understanding the rudimentary process of solving an equation by applying equivalent arithmetic operations to both sides of an equation. However, once students progress to higher math, they are often expected to make a dramatic leap from expressing basic math skills to demonstrating advanced, conceptual math-solving skills. How they get to that level of understanding depends mainly on how teachers guide the pedagogical strategy. And the more hands-on that teachers get, with examples and worksheets, the more likely a student will be to develop these skills. But preparing and grading exercises, while providing useful assessment, can be a time-consuming task.
Practice makes progress
Progressing towards higher math problem-solving strategies requires proficiency in the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They must build on these proficiencies to start thinking more conceptually about math and develop adaptive reasoning when solving algebraic equations. Problem solving practice catalyzes this transformation.
Getting more hands on with procedural fluency
New technology exists that can support a student’s progress towards procedural fluency and conceptual math understanding. On a screen, students can manipulate equation elements using simple drag-and-drop to perform algebra-solving skills. They can experiment and visualize on their own how an equation might be solved. Without having to waste time with ‘leg-work’ of arithmetic, they can focus on the higher-level thinking required for:
- Simplifying expressions
- Expanding expressions
- Solving linear equations
By repeating this process, students can become more familiar with key concepts, strategic thinking, and develop skills that can transition into other areas of their math education. The tools also provide analytics to teachers which bring specific problem areas to their attention. This makes the face-to-face time between teacher and student far more productive, since many of the preliminary issues and questions surrounding a particular algebra skill have already been addressed by the education technology tool.
Learn more about the technology
Consider the benefits of an instructional tool that is simple for students to use, relieves teachers of the drudgery of grading, and provides rich feedback to formulate more targeted teaching strategies. By either creating worksheets and math problems themselves, or selecting from a library of previously prepared content, math teachers can help give their students a leg-up when it comes to advancing their math education. And because the tool is integrated within a learning management system (LMS), or a virtual learning environment (VLE), monitoring, assessing, and providing feedback is made even easier.
Visit the Brightspace App Finder webpage to learn more about Algebra By Hand, the mouse-driven and touch device-accessible tool. See how it can help to improve your students’ fluency in algebra and build confidence around mathematics. Also take a look at some of the sample worksheets and see how accessible and easy it is operate on any browser-enabled device, like tablets and smartphones.