Road Test: Algebra touch
Some young mathematicians love algebra, but for others it can be confusing and frustrating. The problem with algebra is that learners must change the way they understand letters, numbers and symbols.
In arithmetic, the alphabet could represent apples and bananas, and would give an unchangeable value for the total number of fruit, "X".
In algebra, 2a + 3b = X defines a relationship of quantities between "a" and "b". Both alphabets are changeable values, instead of a word. And X is another alphabet, but instead of representing a number like "a" and "b", it stands for a changeable value depending on what "a" and "b" are. Confused? No wonder. As one of my students said, "That's not what alphabets are for."
Algebra Touch is an educational app that literally shows how the algebraic language works. It opens on to a blackboard-like surface, with instructions at the bottom of the page. These direct learners step by step, from addition all the way to elimination. As students manipulate the numbers and operators, the instructions flip like a page to guide them to the next step. This also works in reverse; flipping the pages moves the numbers on the board around, so students can see examples of how the problem is solved.
There are 20 lessons, from simple arithmetic to key concepts on elimination and substitution necessary to find algebra's missing "X". Students can touch and drag numbers around so that they can be positioned where they wish, and easily crossed out by simply drawing a line across the screen. After students have understood the concepts, there are practice sums to help them remember the concepts.
What's even more helpful is students can input sums they may have difficulty with in their homework and use the app to learn to solve them. I don't suggest using the app as a calculator for all sums, but it can help novice algebra students see how classroom ideas can be translated to the sums in the app.
Algebra is a language of relationships between quantities. Algebra Touch gives students another way to get around the obstacle of understanding the disparate meanings of symbols and figure out strategies to solve linear algebraic equations.
Verdict: If you're struggling to explain algebra to your child, Algebra Touch should be your go-to app.
Algebra Touch, Regular Berry Software. US$1.99, from iTunes App Store