- Computer Science in Algebra PD: Why Computer Science belongs in Algebra #1


My number one problem when I taught math was that my students gave up too easily when they hit the “wall” on a problem. If I wasn’t there to hold their hand through it, they would stop.

Working with partners was always a challenge. No matter if I assigned partners or let the students pick, more times than not, only one of them was doing al of the work.


Great idea! I want to use that!


My strategy has always been to connect the concept of functions to simple linear equations that students have already studied. I make the connections to other math concepts they have studied such as graphs, listing ordered pairs, etc. Then we look at how to determine if each representation is a function.
I like the article because it allows students to connect with language and practice defining it in their own way with familiar terms as simple as verb and or noun.
Our students tend to be “fed” the information for many years before they arrive in 8th grade. It is a challenge to get them to seek it or formulate a definition and test it out…they just want to be told and they’ll write it down.


In my algebra classes, I find it difficult to get students to show their work when working on problems. They seem to not worry about how they formulated an answer, but the fact that they just got an answer. When they’re able to completely show how they got that answer, the teacher can tell whether or not they have seemed to master a topic.
Also, students seem to struggle with the process and reading and translating English concepts into math that they can calculate. They can’t seem to formulate a plan in what the questions asks them to do and how to come up with an answer. This is a problem being that most of the standardized testing questions are word problems.


It is hard for students to complete word problems with algebra and think about different variables.


I find it difficult for my average students to define functions or explain to me what they are.
Most of them understand parts of the big ideas but do not understand how they are interconnected.
I’ve been working really hard to try to get students to understand how functions can be represented in different ways but all mean the same thing.


I can’t get my students to . . .

  1. understand the difference between positive, negative, zero and undefined slope in a context.
  2. solve a system of inequalities and understand there are many solutions.
  3. Remember exponent rules, particularly the negative exponents.


I can t get all my students to problem solve. In Groupsn
of fours -one student would become the leader, smart students stand out and come up with solutions.

I would like a new way to teach my students how to solve system of equations. This is a hard concept for middle school students. There are generally three ways of solving. My student understand graphing, but elimination is very hard for them to comprehend


My students are very reluctant to try lengthy word problems for homework. They’ll wait until the next day to get help in class on those problems.
Some students also have a hard time with domain, range and end behavior of functions


I agree with you that they should reduce the number of standards in each course. The new common core standards are supposed to be less in number of standards so that each standard can be taught in depth but there are still too many standards in each high school math course


One of the biggest problems I see is my students don’t want to show or explain their work. They will get an answer, but will have no work to back it up and will not explain how or why that answer makes sense. I also have trouble getting students to check their work. A lot of math problems allow students to plug their answer back into the problem, but students won’t take the extra time to do so. Also, while working in groups I usually find that one student (usually the stronger math student) doing all the work…


My students have difficulty making thier thinking visible. I want my students to be able to support thier answers with work, explanation, description, diagrams, etc.
My students have difficulty connecting solutions in the context of the problem.
My students have difficulty sorting data to determine what values are important and what values have no meaning to the problem.


I can’t get some of my students to turn in their homework on a consistent basis. It seems to be a constant struggle of the teacher being persistent in holding all students accountable for completing and turning in their homework and some students being persistent or consistent in not completing or turning in their homework. It’s a difficult problem to solve and it takes constant communication between the school and home to get significant positive results.

  1. Persistence: our district has MARS tasks which are a series of problem-solving scenarios that gradually build in complexity. There is rarely only one way to solve the problems, rather it is important that the kids justify their answer and prove it by showing their work and their thinking. The problems aren’t easy and are meant to be thought through over several class periods rather than just one.

  2. Functions as a thing/procedure rather than a concept/disciplinary way of thinking: work with students to identify patterns and then evaluate if we can name those patterns using functions rather than always starting with a function

3)Students memorize what a function looks like and regurgitate it rather than really understanding what it means and how to apply it: I am hoping this program will help me find another way to show students how functions can help them accomplish tasks in “real life” rather than just in textbooks

  1. I can’t get my students to check if their answers make sense. I have often found that students are content with completion whether or not the answer makes any sense. Okay, my answer says that the height of the girl is 200 inches, sounds about right… Two roadblocks here are that they lack patience and even more important, don’t have any understanding of numbers and measurement. A strategy I learned in another PD was “too high too low”. After reading a problem, have students give a number that is way too high to make sense and way too low. This gets them thinking about the problem before they start plowing through it as quickly as possible, and also gives a range for acceptable answers. Students have enjoyed this practice, but in order for it to work, the teacher has to be consistent.

  2. I find that basic math skills block their ability to dive into more difficult concepts and deeper mathematics such as functions. My response has been to spend a lot of time focusing on these basic skills such as integer rules. I am still grappling with this, is there a way to integrate and tackle both with such a wide and challenging curriculum?

  3. My students are often successful with function procedures but struggle to bridge the conceptual understanding and meaning of the different functions and how they connect. I have tried many different approaches and found this article intriguing and a possible pathway to helping with this dilemma. I have tried breaking the concept down for them and inquiry based activities. Students enjoy the activities but still rely in me heavily to help them throughout.


The author argues to proceed with caution because functions are a core idea that we want students to connect their learning to. If we turn them off to functions then concepts that are presented later in mathematics will not have meaning and students will not be successful in later mathematics. This article was very helpful as an Algebra teacher I am going to really think about presenting this very early in the year and working with input and output and connecting this to functions and what we are doing with our class all year long.


My students tend to shut down when faced with a word problem. It could be due to their reading levels or to their previous bad experiences with word problems.
I think that if the following habits could be improved, my students would be more successful with reading and explaining in math classes.

  1. contributing to class discussions(generally discussions revolve around 3 students)
  2. elaborating when explaining their process or solution
  3. being able to explain vocabulary in their own terms and show their own examples


Graphing is the first concrete concept I try teaching when introducing functions and systems of equations. I try to help them relate that a function can be represented through graphing, a function table, etc.
Students are ask how are these three thing related; and I hope they can explain to one another or summarize for me the relationships. I try to help them reflect and come to their own conclusion about these concepts. The problem with this is sometimes they just give up or one/two students in the group take the lead.


That is so true! When students are working on computer programs they need to check their work in order to see if their program works.


Here are a couple of the problems when working with computers: Students want the teacher or someone to give them the answers instead of them doing some extra work. They need to learn to review the material given and find the answer themselves.
Students get discouraged when they can’t get the correct answer and they just do not put more effort. They do very good when they have someone to work with and they help each other.
Students love to do mental math, and many times they get the answer wrong. It is great to make them in a habit of showing all of their work and let them explain their reasoning based on their work they wrote.