Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mystery Math A First Book of Algebra

I saw Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebraand was so hopeful it would live up to my expectations, I wasn't disappointed when I checked it out of the library. I've been arguing for years, that when you introduce math language to kids in a casual but consistent way early on, they won't necessarily understand it right away, but you plant seeds and with consistant useage the language and concepts take root. Kids aren't asked to learn a new language when presented with algebra. They've been introduced to this type of language since they've been working with math. The language gets more complex and the ideas more abstract, but the goal of using math language has been a consistant.

Algebra has long been a stumbling block in my family and it is frustrating because if taught differently most of the kids seem to understand it until forced back into the standard way of being taught it. This book starts by using humor and monsters to engage kids with the basic language of equations. The book begins by discussing see saws and balance, leading children towards the concept that equations must be balanced. Eventually the book introduces the idea that what happens to one side of an equation must always happen to the other in order for the balance to be maintained. This is done in a fun and humourous way with illustrations, but the language is math language and the equations are written correctly to introduce kids to equations as they are properely written.

Honestly, I wish I hadn't waited until Jr. High to start changing my way of thinking about equations. Algebra was a foreign language based on a language I thought I already knew and that was fruatrating to me and many of my classmates. We were learning new words for concepts we thought we already understood. What if someone had just casually without too much pressure started us off with the correct language for what we were learning so we didn't have to relearn everything at an arbritrary time people thought we were ready for algebra?

This book starts out solving simple addition and subtraction algebra problems and then moves on to mulitplication and division problems. The solutions are laid out quite well and with plenty of explanations for child and interested parents who might want examples that are clear to demonstrate the process to a child. The story is funny and cute to help keep the interest in pursuing the problems alive. The math is not overwhelming, but for a child only familiar with addition and subtraction, the multiplication and division sections might be more challenging.

I have been looking specifically for algebra related math materials and this is one of the more exciting basic books I've discovered. I'm continuing my quest for others, but this is one of the best I've seen at the introdcutory level to date.

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