We Try Algebra

Still trying to figure out how to reach Violet — who has been 7 for just over a week — at her highest level of math ability while we plod through rote memorization of “math facts,” I decided to plunge ahead with some algebra today.

It was great — Violet actually said, “This is easy!” (we were just writing simple equations based on word problems, without solving) and “Oh, I get it!”

I was afraid to take this step because everyone stresses the sequential nature of math. A kid working on the 7s of the multiplication table has not reached the algebra stage of the sequence, clearly. But I was emboldened by this article about homeschooling highly gifted kids, especially this anecdote:

“Quick what’s 7×9,” Ben’s mom queried. Seven year old Ben knew it immediately. He said he had “figured it out” by making a more complicated algebraic pattern mentally.

His mother then asked about 5×5, but he took longer saying that he, ” just knew that one” – had it memorized. Ben explained, “It’s as if 5×5 isn’t enough to wrap my brain around and figuring it out gives my brain cells more to do. Ben continued, “I think there is a boredom factor involved. If it’s inside an algebra problem I seem to know it faster. My subconscious knows it but won’t tell my conscious for efficiency reasons. If I knew I was doing arithmetic I probably wouldn’t be able to do it as fast.”

Ben’s second grade teacher wasn’t ready to let him explore algebra because he hadn’t yet mastered the basics. Ben kept his father’s algebra book in his desk at school for free reading time. However, because Ben, like many highly gifted children, finds simplicity in complex ideas, he was actually more able to solve the difficult problems than the simpler problems generally suited for second graders. In fact it was the simple problems that confused him. As he so eloquently expressed it was as if there wasn’t enough to wrap his brain around. Ben is now a homeschooler.

The whole article is worth reading.

I’ll report later about how algebra and math facts are meshing for us, after we’ve experimented with it for a while.

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