Friday, August 13, 2010

Algebra and I

There was a time when algebra was my favourite maths subject.   And then along came some irritating equation, something that just didn't make sense anymore, and, sadly, algebra and I parted company from that point on.

Not entirely.  There was a point when I lived in England when I used to help a boy with his homework, particularly algebra, because in spite of my first paragraph above, I have a soft spot for algebra.  It used to frustrate me a little that this young fellow didn't quite understand the fact that in order to 'prove' your equation, you had to show the steps that got you there.   He liked to jump from the start to finish, leaving out the middle, where possible.  

Later on I came across a great book on algebra which promised that it would all make sense for me.   The first two or three chapters did....and then I had that same old sinking feeling about the subject that I'd had in school.   No matter how I tried to figure out the workings of an equation, I couldn't get there.   It was as if the writer was doing the same thing as my young friend: jumping from Al to bra with no ge in the middle.

Nowadays, it appears, you can get help online for such things as 4th grade math, 5th grade math and pretty much every other math between, before and after.  Of course you pay a monthly subscription, and you have to take that into your mathematical household equations, but that aside, it must be great to go online at 11 pm, when your Algebra 2 is due in first class in the morning, and know that there's someone who understands your problem.   That is, after your parents have given up trying to figure it out.

Parents, after they've left school and maths well behind, can cope up to about the level of adding fractions and then everything they were ever taught goes out the window.   Unless they happen to be like my geek of a son, who reads maths like I read a novel.    He's the sort of person (probably) who knows what the formula for volume is, or someone who finds graphing linear equations meaningful.   (I don't; I just grabbed the phrase from somewhere to make this sound impressive.)

Maybe I'll dig that old algebra book out, and see if I can get beyond that problem point.   By now, maybe, my brain will have caught up with what I was missing when I was younger. 

One lives in hope.
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