NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ886398
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-May
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 2
ISSN: ISSN-1072-0839
Using Tables to Bridge Arithmetic and Algebra
Brown, Susan A.; Mehilos, Megan
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, v15 n9 p532-538 May 2010
Many students and adults feel that algebra is merely the shuffling of symbols. The three interrelated concepts of variable, expression, and equation are central to beginning algebra, and in recent years, helping students understand the idea of a variable has been emphasized. Although graphing calculators help students solve equations, it is also important that students understand algebraic expressions. Students are often asked to "combine like terms" or "expand" or "factor," which requires that they apply the properties of algebra to transform an expression into an equivalent one. But before these topics are addressed, it is worthwhile to help students build meaning for the concept of equivalent expressions. TABLE on a graphing calculator is a powerful tool for helping students understand expressions. This capability has been available for decades, but it is often overlooked. However, it can be a key representation that helps students see the meaning behind symbols. By effortlessly listing many specific examples, this feature allows students to show that the value of an expression depends on the value of its variable. In this article, the authors show some of the ways in which TABLE acts as a powerful tool to help students to make sense of variables, expressions, and equations. This feature allows students to see algebraic symbols as general descriptions of specific numbers, which is particularly valuable for those students who need to develop an understanding of abstract symbols. For all students, TABLE can act as a bridge from students' past experience with arithmetic to the new world of algebra. (Contains 9 figures.)
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: Middle Schools
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A