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ERIC Number: EJ1059586
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Apr
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1072-0839
A Balancing Act: Making Sense of Algebra
Gavin, M. Katherine; Sheffield, Linda Jensen
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, v20 n8 p460-466 Apr 2015
For most students, algebra seems like a totally different subject than the number topics they studied in elementary school. In reality, the procedures followed in arithmetic are actually based on the properties and laws of algebra. Algebra should be a logical next step for students in extending the proficiencies they developed with number topics because algebra is simply a language for exploring and explaining mathematical patterns. In this article, M. Katherine Gavin and Linda Jensen Sheffield state that students need help in developing and making sense of the rules they are using. They need to be shown how to employ a variety of strategies to solve algebraic problems, and they need help in seeing algebra as generalizing computational procedures and operations they use with numbers. Examples explain activities established with grade 6 students learning the concepts of equality and balance and variable tools central to the study of equations. Students made sense of the problems, explained and justified their methods, critiqued one another's reasoning, and gained a stronger grasp of the meaning of equality. In conclusion, Gavin and Sheffield found that Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM)-based algebra investigations with a focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice were successful in helping students develop a much deeper understanding of equality and variables and their relationships in equations. The authors believe this will give students a strong foundation on which to build algebraic concepts as they progress through middle school and into high school.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 1906 Association Drive, Reston, VA 20191-1502. Tel: 800-235-7566; Tel: 703-620-3702; Fax: 703-476-2970; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Secondary Education; Middle Schools; Junior High Schools; Grade 6; Intermediate Grades; Elementary Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A