Why Learn Algebra Vocabulary

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September 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm #342


The first step of algebra is getting your child thinking about basic concepts and doing problems, mostly in their head instead of on paper. This idea is much like having a child learn to play piano first by playing a scale, or a small memorized tune, without having to manage reading notes, counting, and playing all at once. It will give your child a sense of accomplishment to jump straight into solving problems successfully before backing up to learn the theory and vocabulary.
Why learn Algebra vocabulary? Well, the first response to that question is, “Why not?” Among the first steps to learning absolutely anything (from biology to grammar to car repair) is to learn the vocabulary of the discipline. That way you can communicate. That way you can understand the problems. It may seem a boring activity, but it is an essential one. And in the Doodles Do Algebra series, I have made the vocabulary-learning process exciting enough that it entertained my own children.
And so the next step after getting their feet wet in the algebra pool is to learn the vocabulary of algebra. Understanding the terms used in algebra is important so that your child can speak the language of algebra math and understand others as well – much like it is helpful to understand basic vocabulary and phrases in French when you travel to France. (this explanation worked really well for the child of mine who counters every new lesson or idea with “why do I have to learn that?”)
Learning the vocabulary is a combination of memorizing a few definitions (we do it in the form of small poems that are easy to remember) and understanding other terms by solving some problems with them (for instance the concept of power).
Don’t worry too much about absolute long-term retention, your child will be exposed to these terms over and over so he will learn it over time. That really is the beauty of algebra. There is no need for “spiraling” back over previously-learned concepts. Your child will need to use the concepts of today in order to solve the problems of tomorrow, in a continually growing pile of tools that allows him to finally solve the problems at the end of the curriculum.
I hope that explains why vocabulary is important, even for algebra.
I would love to hear what you think about learning algebra. Ask me some questions! Make some snarky math comments! I am open to it all!

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