Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Oh no, the F-word 

No, that F-word. Fractions.

We started a new chapter with the Algebra kids today and I discovered that most of the students gave me blank looks when I showed them how to solve a proportion like


and they had to multiply 3/2 by 4. My mentor teacher's solution was to only have them learn to solve proportions by cross-products. And when I did that in 2nd hour, that seemed to go more slowly, but we still need to make sure that fractions are not a problem. I'm thinking that I really want to do a remedial fraction lesson with these kids. OK, sure, it might be easier for them to get around the fraction issue in this problem by cross-products so we now have 2x=4×3 and x=6, but then they'll be lost when we start doing more complicated rational expressions.

The chapter that we're starting is, I think, a great collection of material because it's the culmination of Algebra I: It takes everything that they've done for the whole of Algebra I and combines it into nice tasty problems. You add, subtract, multiply and factor polynomials. You add, subtract, multiply and divide polynomials. You solve for x. You can even graph the functions. The only thing that we don't really use from the class is solving systems of equations. And the most important concepts of all, are the fraction problems. I think perhaps I'll give a quick quiz on Tuesday (we get a three-day weekend!) to gauge where the kids are with fractions and do the fraction lesson on Wednesday.

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