Get rid of the blank!

“Seriously Wicked: A Novel” by Tina Connolly –

“I’d thought of algebra as something requiring great intuitive leaps and an inner aptitude, because that’s the way Rourke had been doing it. But all this was step by step. Anyone who figured out how to slot all the witch’s bizarro demands into one streamlined schedule and then check them off could do something that was step by step.”

A long time ago (back in early high school) I was browsing a bookshelf at home and came across a math workbook my dad had bought for my brother to help him out. The workbook was for grade 3 or 4. I was astonished to flip through it and see a chapter labeled “algebra” even though it was covering basic mathematics. This was the moment that it dawned on me why so many kids have trouble with algebra: the damn letters!

You see, the elementary workbook had labeled as algebra problems such as: 6 + _ =10. Which is the exact same problem that will be introduced YEARS later as “algebra” only with 6 + X = 10! You’ll have to realize that at that point in my life I spent half my time with my friends helping them as they struggled with algebra because “why does X=2 in this problem, but X=5 in that one?!? Why isn’t it constant??!”.

Obviously, a mathematics revolution can and will happen the moment teachers in elementary school introduce Xs (and Ys and Zs) alongside that damn blank! And then get rid of that blank as quickly as humanly possible!

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