Math Headaches

Discussion in 'Fourth Grade' started by TampaTeacher, Sep 23, 2007.

  1. TampaTeacher

    TampaTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 23, 2007

    I wrote recently that I was having trouble teaching front-end estimation. After that, our class moved on to patterns, and I was feeling great! The kids were getting it, and we were rocking and rolling. However, tomorrow I start teaching them equations. As I've written before, I'm new to teaching and math isn't my strong point, so I'm amazed at how FAST we're supposed to be flying through math. Solving equations in 4th grade? And learning it in a week? Wow. My first experience with algebra was 7th grade. Anyway, I hope I'm wrong about this, but I anticipate flustered students and blank faces when I introduce this new concept. Does anybody have any tips or fun ways to teach this subject so my kids don't freak? Obviously, I wouldn't blame them for their frustration. I'm the one who is supposed to make it make sense.
     
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  3. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    Sep 23, 2007

    What exactly do you have to teach? "Equations" is a little vague. We draw some pictures to go with algebra.
     
  4. TampaTeacher

    TampaTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 23, 2007

    Well, for example, I have problems such as 39 = n + 35. But instead of just telling them to subtract 35 from 39 and - ta-da! You've got your answer - I'm supposed to have them do this:

    39 = n + 35
    39 - 35 = n + 35 - 35
    4 = n
    n = 4

    i understand that what I'm showing them is that anything you do on the left, you have to do on the right side of the equal sign. It just seems like the children might have trouble with this if I don't come up with a catchy way to teach this concept and hold their attention. Then again, maybe I'm underestimating them. The more I look over the lesson, the better I'm starting to feel about my ability to explain it.
    Thanks for any suggestions!
     
  5. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    Sep 23, 2007

    That's what I am doing now... are you in Harcourt also? I am at Chapter 4, Lesson 1.

    It's not too difficult, especially when you use real-life examples with student names to get the students intrigued.
     
  6. TampaTeacher

    TampaTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2007

    Hi, Ms. Jasztal. We use Voyages, a set of consumable workbooks made specifically for Florida schools. A lot of teachers have criticisms of it, but since this is my first year, I have nothing to compare it to.
    So, do you mean that you use a child's name in place of the variable?
    I'm thinking of using a pan balance today to illustrate the need to add/subtract the same amt. from each side.
    Thanks for your help!
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2007

    Forgive me for jumping on my soapbox, especiallly about something over which you have no control.

    But why are they learning equations in 4th grade?

    Do they all know their times tables, cold? Can they divide decimals (so that they'll be able to do polynomial division in Precalc.)?? Can they do basic fraction operations (so they'll be able to do them algebraicallly in HS)?? Do they know the perfect squares and perfect cubes (so they'll be able to factor in HS)??


    I HATE the push to expose them to more more more without a decent emphasis on having them KNOW the basics!!!
     
  8. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2007

    Solving equations the way you demonstrated, TampaTeacher, is done is either grade 7 or 8 here. In grade 4, our students need to identify the missing term in an equation ___+ 6 =20 (all 4 operations), but are not required to use any formal notation.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 25, 2007

    I demonstrated this with a pan balance for a class of sixth graders, and had their full and complete attention. Of course, it helped that what we were solving for was Skittles.
     
  10. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Sep 25, 2007

    Hands On Equations is a great, and developmentally appropriate, way to introduce the concepts of algebraic equations. Writing it out like middle schoolers do sure isn't appropriate for 4th, I don't think. I'm sure I'd skip that method if it were in my text.
     
  11. mathman

    mathman Rookie

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    Sep 25, 2007

    Equation

    A good defintion of an equation is needed.

    Before I define an equation, did you know that addition of two numbers to equal a sum is an equation?

    For example, 5 + 4 = 9 is an equation. In other words, an equation does not require a variable to be classified as an equation.

    The equation above is an example of an equality: a proposition which states that two constants are equal. Equalities may be true or false.

    To solve an algebraic equation takes practice but ANY algebra course before linear algebra and abstract algebra is very easy, honestly. I laugh when teachers tell me that they took algebra 1 and 2 in high school and did very well.

    However, algebra extends beyond the basic stuff that we all learned. Of course, the only people that ever get a chance to "taste" advanced algebra are math majors like myself.

    SAMPLE:

    3x + 5 = 20...solve for x.

    1-subtract 5 from both sides of the equation.

    Doing so, we get this:

    3x = 20 - 5

    3x = 15

    2-To find x, divide both sides by the coefficient (the number next to x),which happens to be 3.

    Doing so, we get this:

    x = 15/3

    x = 5
     
  12. TampaTeacher

    TampaTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2007

    I agree this seems pretty advanced for 4th graders, especially at the rate our math calendar has them flying through it. I feel like they are never given a chance to achieve mastery of any mathmatical concept. Most of my students just learn it well enough to pass (while quite a few fail and a couple really succeed). It's a shame. I thought my inexperience might be to blame for their difficulties, but veteran teachers tell me they are having the same problems.
     
  13. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    Sep 25, 2007

    No, I use students' names in the equation word problems so it's easier to discuss.

    Here are the types of problems we have-

    - x + 13= 26
    - When m=2, (m x 3) + 8= ___

    I have the students do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to solve the equations. I don't teach a flatooty way to confuse them even more with what they are doing. Do you have to go the roundabout way or do the basic method?
     
  14. TampaTeacher

    TampaTeacher Comrade

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    Sep 26, 2007

    Their test requires them to know the fancy way to solve the problems, but they are starting to get it! I've just decided to spend extra time on it and give the test a little later than scheduled.

    Here's an example of a test question:

    32 + x = 40
    32 - __ + x = 40 - __
    x = __

    Thanks for the help, everyone. The suggestion about using candy in the pan balance made a big difference! I've tried not to give them junk food very often, but in this case I'm glad I did. One piece of hard candy to help a kid grasp a tough concept? Worth it, in my opinion.
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 26, 2007

    One could use pennies, I suppose.
     
  16. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    Sep 26, 2007

    Wow. Sometimes, I just write my own tests because I have an extra support class that needs to see things done in a certain manner to understand. Sometimes the math book's tests are too difficult or don't really cover what they need to know... like... front end estimation!!
     
  17. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Sep 27, 2007

    I always create my own tests to match what and how I've taught a concept and our provincial curriculum expectations (standards). I've found that just because it's "in the textbook" doesn't always mean we have to teach it. Textbooks are written and published for a wide market; they aren't always a perfect fit. Tomorrow, the class in which I offer extra math support has a test. We aren't using the test in the teacher's guide, because the students won't do well on it, not because they don't know the concepts, but because the test questions are presented in a different way than the ones they have been practicing. My goal with a test is to give the students an opportunity to demonstrate what they know, and they can do this best in a format that they are familiar and comfortable with.
     
  18. TampaTeacher

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    Sep 27, 2007

    Yes, for other subjects I do sometimes write my own tests. I wish I could do that with math! However, we are given a specific calendar without much wiggle room, and premade tests. The teachers in each grade all give the exact same tests, and we have to document the results. However, I DO always make a practice test that is very similar to the actual test. I change the exact facts and figures and throw in some fun details in the word problems (like including High School Musical characters), but the concepts are identical. This seems to help because they do the work one day, and we review it the next day, just before the test. I'm trying to help them as much as possible.
     
  19. Ms.Jasztal

    Ms.Jasztal Maven

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    Sep 27, 2007

    The practice test seems like a good idea! Also, I think I know which program you are referring to. The teacher next door to me is from Tampa and has lots of resources from a math program she was required to use. I recall it had a lot of documentation check-off sheets.

    (By the way, I'm near- I am in Hernando County.)
     
  20. cinaminsweet

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    Sep 28, 2007

    Our very first math unit this year was solving equations, such as 54 + n = 69 and 5p=20. The kids barely know multiplication, but they thrust this on them the first weeks of school. I also did not learn that until the 7th grade. When I had a sub teach my class, she also remarked that she was surprised to see this being taught in the fourth grade.

    We use Scott Foresman math, but our district has us jump around a lot. We also don't get to spend a lot of time on the more difficult concepts. They gave us one day to teach elapsed time. Last year in third grade they gave us ONE day to teach long division. Thankfully this year in fourth we get about a week and a half to teach it.
     
  21. dust bunny

    dust bunny Rookie

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    Sep 30, 2007

    What About Me?

    I taught my students how to do the equations they way you have outlined (doing the same thing to both sides of the equation to isolate the variable on one side to be solved), by putting together a story about 2 kittens. Furry and Purry were on opposite sides of an equal sign. Furry was given 3 fish and Purry wasn't, so Purry cried "What about me?" Purry got 3 fish also and both sides were equal. This went on for a couple of examples I do not remember all the details as I put the story on a smart board and don't have a smart board at my new school. Anyway, when we did equations I would remind the class that we need to do the same thing to both sides of the equation by saying, "what about me?". This seemed to help them. I had the same students the year before in 4th grade (I looped to 5th with my class). They really struggled with variables and solving equations. In 5th grade I don't know if it was Furry and Purry that helped, or the fact that the students were a year older, but variables went much smoother.
     

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