Algebra Solving – The "See Saw" Way

Many times students make careless mistake in solving algebra questions during manipulation of the mathematical terms. This is so because of the understanding of the mathematics operations and the actual meaning of the “equal” symbol that relates two mathematics expressions. Moving mathematics variables or terms from left side to right side (or vice versa) of the “equal” symbol will pose a potential problem.

To cite examples of common mistakes made:

1) x + 5 = 4 became x = 4 + 5

2) 2y = 6 become y = 6 / (-2)

Teaching mathematics and its learning can be simplified using everyday applications. In this case of algebra solving, teachers can use the playground “See Saw” concept to explain the solution of the mathematics operation. “See Saw” is actually a play item and is a long wooden plank pivoted at the centre whereby two kids or adults can each sits on both ends and moves up and down alternately. When both kids are of the same weight and stationary, the plank will be level. When either one adds force upwards, the other side will go down. This concept can be useful to algebra solving through understanding of the balancing act.

Balancing the “See Saw” is similar to balancing the algebraic terms on both sides of the “equal” symbol. In short, if the left side of the algebraic relation has newly added term, the right side must also be added with the same new term of the left side in order to keep the balance and staying level. This is the true meaning of “equal”. Likewise, if one side has term subtracted, the other side must also have the same term subtracted to stay balance. Also if one side is completely divided by a mathematics variable or term, the other side must also be divided by the same thing to keep the “equal” meaningful.

To explain in mathematically term, let’s show an example:

1) x + 6 = 3. To make the x as the only subject on left side, we need to subtract the “6” from the left side. The “equal” symbol will not hold if the right side does not perform the same mathematics operation as the left side, that is, to subtract “6” also.

Therefore x + 6 – 6 = 3 – 6 which becomes x = -3 (correct answer). Is the concept simple?

2) 5y = 10. To make y as the only subject, we need to divide the left side of the mathematics expression by 5. This forces us to also divide the right side by 5 to stay equal.

Therefore 5y / 5 = 10 /5. This results in y = 2 (correct answer). See the simplicity!

Everyday applications can be used to explain many mathematics operation and should be used in the teaching of mathematics. In this example, if the learners has this concept of the “See Saw” way of application to algebra solving, they will not make any more careless mistakes.

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