Algebra- Practice develops the skills

The Egyptians and Greeks wanted to find a way to describe the general relationships and connections between objects and events in the mathematical world, just as we often want to describe connections between people, objects and events in the real world (for example, "Jeannie gave the shovel to Peter"). To do this the Greeks and Egyptians developed algebra.

It must be said up front that thinking in terms of the general relations and the abstract connections between objects and events, takes practice.

It's very similar to developing a physical skill, like learning to run long distances. If you aren't used to running, or haven't been running for a long time, at first even running short distances seems very hard. But over time, if you keep practicing, your running skills and your endurance improve. The improvement is gradual, so you might not notice a big difference from day to day. Eventually, however, running seems much easier, and you can easily cover the shorter distances that once were very difficult.

Having said that, there are also some strategies that can help make the situation easier (just as there are ways to make your running easier). Mathematicians constantly rely on these strategies to help them solve difficult problems.

Here are some problem solving strategies that you may want to make use of when working on a math or economics problem:

Problem Solving Strategies

-Make a diagram
-Make a list of facts or known information
-Make a table or a chart of know information
-Make a list of questions that you want to answer
-Make a list of unknowns- facts that you don't yet know.

Keep this list in mind as you work to improve your algebra skills.


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Copyright Jen Schellinck, 2006