## Monday, August 6, 2012

### Color-Coding Algebra

Algebra introduces students to ideas that were previously foreign to them. Suddenly, they are expected to work on both sides of an equal sign, calculate with negative numbers, and told they can’t add all the numbers in an expression together they way they’re accustomed to doing. To help kids navigate this confusing transition, try using color-coding to help them grasp concepts and notice details.

Negatives vs. Positives

Prior to beginning algebra, most students have not had much practice with negative numbers. They are often not accustomed to taking a number’s sign into consideration. To help draw students’ attention to this important factor, ask them to highlight positive numbers in one color and negative numbers in another.

Examples:
-12 + 4 =

(4)(-6) =

Variables

Color-coding is a great strategy for helping algebra neophytes understand the idea of like terms. When adding or subtracting in expressions containing variables, ask students to highlight unattached numbers with one color and like terms with other colors before solving. Grouping blue terms with other blue terms will seem a lot more natural than grouping x’s with other x’s. Tip: Ask them to include the sign preceding each number in the highlight so that they will understand which numbers are positive and which are negative in tricky equations. When there is no sign, ask students to add in their own addition sign, then highlight it.

Example:

4n + 3x - 4 = 7x - 2n + 10      ->        +4n + 3x - 4 = +7x - 2n + 10