When are we ever going to use this?  A common statement by students in my Algebra class.  My response to them is this… No, you are probably not going to write out a multi-step equation on a napkin and solve it to determine the cost of your dinner.  No, you will not break out your graph paper and create a linear equation to predict your total income from an investment.  However, Algebra isn’t just a bunch of letters written with numbers in a sentence.  Algebra isn’t just a bunch of letters that can mean any number, but sometimes another number.  Algebra is a way of thinking.  It is a way to learn how to compute complex problem in your head by utilizing the skills that have been learned in the Algebra classroom.  Algebra is a way of making predictions and drawing mathematical conclusions.  Algebra trains your brain to automatically solve the problems that you will encounter in the real world.  You will use it! While that helps a few of my students to understand why they are taking the course, others still need convincing.  Herein lies the importance of utilizing real world examples in everything that is studied in the Algebra classroom.  Learning to solve an equation is of the utmost importance, however, it will not resonate with the students until it is tied to a real world example.
Brain research proves that students must be able to relate new information to past experiences in order to make neuron connections.  How can a student make a connection if there is nothing that they can relate it to?   Algebra teachers must relate the concepts to the real world.   They must do so not only to make these connections for the students, but also for them to buy into the fact that Algebra is a way of thinking.  For example, when discussing linear equations, an Algebra teacher should not just teach how to graph the equation.  This is just regurgitation for the student which leads to a true disservice to the student.  In order to apply the concepts and use them at higher level, student must be able to understand why they are utilizing the slope and the y-intercept to graph and what they mean. So what can we do to provide these rich, meaningful connections to our students? Research, share and connect.  Through research, taking the time to utilize the wonderful resources that are available to us on the internet.  Some of the best resources that I have utilized this year in my classroom have come from blogs.  Blogs are created by teachers that are innovative and want to share their successes with other teachers. They are real examples of real teachers using authentic learning experiences in their classrooms.  Most of these sites have a list of other blogs that these bloggers follow.  Take the time to explore these links and see what is out there.  Another place to find great ideas is Pinterest.  Pinterest has a specific search tool for education.  Follow other educators that have the same interests in you.  They will lead you to great ideas and resources.   Share.  Start your own blog and share your ideas.  Tweet about the wonderful resources that you find.  Open a Twitter account and connect with other educators.  Even though you may never meet your connections, you are able to share your ideas and thoughts worldwide. It is the job of the Algebra teacher to make their learning meaningful, as it is in any classroom.  However, without the use of real world examples in the Algebra classroom, students will not be able to leave school with the knowledge necessary to solve mathematical problems.  They will always ask when they will use this, but by providing real world learning opportunities, it may not be as often! Now tell us how you get kids to see the value in Algebra?

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