Algebra – Basic Tips on How to Succeed
Algebra is a complex subject, in which seemingly insoluble obstacles can be overcome, if one knows how to approach them. Our basic technique for approaching algebra is to be prepared and know the basics.
Pay attention to signs. Be very careful of positive and negative signs. A misplaced minus sign will give you a wrong answer.
Use graph paper. Do not stop the process of a math problem to draw the graph lines. It tends to break the procedure, especially if the student is unsure about the mathematical instruction to begin with. It is best have the proper tools in place, which includes graph paper.
Learn the order of operations. This is the directive to follow when performing mathematical operations: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. PEMDAS is an acronym or a short form to help remember the order of operations.
Balance the equation. Whatever you do to one side of the equation you must do to the other side, and by the other side I am referring to the other side of the equal sign. When first introduced this may be a difficult concept for some students. As I often tell my students, “You may not fully understand this key, just learn to use it and the understanding will come later.” As a parallel I do not fully understand how the key works in my car I just know it works.
Learn the addition and subtraction; multiplication and division of signed numbers. Do not just get by on this concept. You will be using this regularly in the higher math so master it early. Practice it often and think of it as if you are building a foundation. This key is vital to your continued success in algebra.
Don’t mix units. If you’re computing miles and your second distance is in kilometers you must remember to convert to the same unit. This is a common mistake when students get in a hurry; they see two numbers and perform the operation without carefully reading.
These are just a few basic tips to avoid the pitfalls of algebra. By remembering the basics and developing good habits algebra can be a delight and not a duty.