News from Mathnasium of North Austin
Nov 25, 2018
Why do kids struggle with Geometry?
Geometry is the branch of mathematics that deals with the properties, measurement, and relations of points, lines, angles, surfaces, and solids. In layman’s terms it is math applied to pictures. Many people say it is creative rather than analytical, and students often have trouble making the leap between Algebra and Geometry. They are required to use their spatial and logical skills instead of the analytical skills they were accustomed to using in Algebra.
There are 3 major reasons students struggle with Geometry:
1. They don’t understand and can’t apply the vocabulary to decode the problem.
2. They can’t see or recognize all of the pieces that go into making up the Geometry problem.
3. They struggle with the Algebra skills involved in doing Geometry, which means they didn’t retain some of their skills from last year.
Most Geometry problems are given in terms of pictures. It is probably one of the first times in a student’s Mathematical career that the problem hasn’t been completely spelled out for them. If they don’t pick up on the subtle clues given in the picture, they aren’t able to decode the problem. The information they need is all there, they just don’t recognize it as useful. Vocabulary plays a critical role in this process. If you don’t know what a bisector is and what it does, how are you going to be able to solve a problem involving one?
Another common struggle we see is that students are impatient with the decoding process. One picture in a problem can contain many steps before you get to the final answer. Just because you are looking for the value of one angle doesn’t mean you can ignore the rest of the picture. There is usually a progression of finding one piece of information that helps you find another that helps you find another, and so on until you get to your final answer. Students need to know how and where to start the problem, so they can work their way to the answer. They also need to be patient as they work thoroughly through the entire process.
Many kids are surprised by the amount of Algebra there is in Geometry. Their first initial thought is, “I finished Algebra last year! It’s not supposed to be in Geometry!” Come to find out that we use Algebra everywhere in Geometry, especially with the problem-solving. If they have forgotten their Algebra skills after one summer break, this is going to be very troublesome when they get to Algebra II
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