“Mr. Farmer, are we going to get to play with legos today?”

Unfortunately I didn’t have any further lego project plans for this week’s class. Just as well, since the students had a test the following day and spent the block reviewing what they had covered to this point.

This week I was mostly a “bump on a log” and observed while Mrs. Trauthwein reviewed with the students. Reviewing for an entire block would probably incite a revolt, so we also talked about the mysterious and apparently frightening beast known as ‘Algebra’. I got a kick out of the student’s reactions when Mrs. Trauthwein told them that they had been doing algebra since elementary school (“Box plus four equals six, what goes in the box?”). Some were disbelieving, but I could tell it made big bad algebra a bit less intimidating.

Multiplying fractions often causes students to make this face.

That is a theme I’ve encountered several times so far: the fear of math. I’ve had several students declare to me that they are “bad at math” or “not a math person”. I’m surprised that mentality (which certainly seems widespread among adults) has set in already.

I think in the future I’m going to try to come up with a short 20-30 minute lesson for each time I visit… maybe the first one can be a bit meta and talk about what ‘algebra’ actually is, historically and our present understanding.

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## About Andrew Farmer

I am a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Kansas. I'm interested in functional programming languages, compilers, and language transformation tools.

The attitude that someone is bad at math or not a math person begins very young…I can’t tell you how many times I have conferenced with a parent only to have them tell me, right in front of the student, how bad their kid is at math.

I try to break through those barriers….so, Mr. Farmer, bring on the Algebra and help me out!!