# Three Skills to Boost Success in Algebra

Nov 21, 2018 | Kendall

What is Algebra?

Algebra is the part of our mathematical studies that teaches us how to solve problems where we have an unknown quantity, what we call a variable.  A variable is a symbol (commonly a letter) that we use to represent the amount we are trying to find. Therefore, when your teachers ask you to “solve for x,” what they are really asking you to do is to find the unknown quantity in a problem.

Taking an Algebra course may seem like a daunting endeavor, but your success in an Algebra course can be boosted by having a strong foundation of three key mathematical skills: Multiplication Facts, Fractions, and Integers.

Multiplication Facts

Having a strong knowledge base of your multiplication facts will go a long way in your mathematical studies.  It will help make your work more efficient and less frustrating. In today’s technology-filled world, it is easy to plug in numbers into a calculator and get the answer. Technology can be very useful when used properly, however we need to be careful that it does not replace a strong development of basic mathematical facts. Whereas calculators will give you a numerical answer, it will not tell you if your answer is reasonable in the context of the problem. Because Algebra is heavily based in problem-solving, you will need to be able to develop your critical thinking skills without relying on a calculator.

Fractions

Fractions exist in our everyday lives -- a quarter past the hour, half of a tank of gas, 5/8" wrench, 3/4 cup of sugar.  We want to take away the fear that many students associate with fractions. They tend to see fractions as a mystery. Some students will even skip over and never even attempt a problem simply because it contains a fraction.  If we break down the wall that students have built up between fractions and themselves, the confidence they will build in their abilities will take them through Algebra and beyond.

Integers

Integers, positive and negative whole numbers, are abundant in Algebra.  When operating with integers, students tend to ask, “Do I need to add or subtract?” and “Is the answer positive or negative?”  They try to remember the rules for integers, but the problem arises if they forget what the rules are. Instead of pure memorization, students will benefit from a deeper understanding of what positive and negative numbers mean in terms of a number line.  They can ask themselves if a number is getting bigger or smaller. This foundation of what negative numbers represent will allow students to check their answer for reasonableness.

By strengthening these three areas of mathematics, students will be better prepared for their Algebra class and beyond.