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


I have a hard time getting my students this year to write more than just a number for an answer even when I explicitly give directions to explain and justify and give meaning to their answer according to the problem.

I also have a hard time getting my students to self check their work. Once we have learned this topic they don’t actually do it or when they do and they clearly are wrong they don’t go back to re do work. I introduce this topic by have a discussion of what a solution is to an equation once we have that established we go over the procedure of checking.

And like a few other have said I have had a difficult time getting students to do their homework


I find it difficult to keep my students on task when working in groups. They tend to talk about everything but what they are supposed to talk about.

Another issue is with students completing assignments. When they don’t complete them in class I allow them to take it home. But they come back the next day with the assignment still incomplete.

Last, they don’t remember concepts once we leave that unit. When we review they say they forgot how to do it.


I have a lot of students who don’t want to show their work. I try to show them that if they show their work, that they are less likely to make mistakes. I also have students who do not want to do math problems as homework. I now make homework worth more as a grade, so my students feel like it is important because it is worth more in the grade book. Finally, I have students who do not persevere in problem solving. I try to explain some of the problem-solving methods to help make their loves easier. (Break complex problems into smaller problems, draw a picture, work backward, etc…).


My sixth graders have a difficult time transitioning from expressions with one variable or one term to multi-term or multi-variable expressions, especially seeing, for example, 5x and 4 as two things that can’t be combined, and are really focused on just calling it 9x. I’ve followed my curriculum on introducing this topic, and it calls for the use of manipulatives, and takes a lot of time. I think my mistake has always been rushing through the concept because it is always so close to testing time that I feel pressure to cover, cover, cover. I think my students need the time to process, and actually use the manipulatives, then pictures, to represent different terms or variables using different things (which makes me see a big connection to coding).

I can’t get my students to slow down and think carefully about involved tasks. I see a lot of students rushing and just “trying to get it done”. I’ve tried to combat this by having them work a task, then using student samples of work and having a discussion that re-engages them in the task and thinking about what others were thinking. And bringing specific attention to instances where students just didn’t read carefully. I’ve incorporated the same techniques their reading teachers use for close reading lessons. students respond well in class but I don’t understand why for at least half of them, it still isn’t translating over to when they take a standardized test.

My students also struggle with seeing an equation as a statement that two things are equal, and when you solve an equation with a variable by using an inverse operation, you are really doing the same things to “both sides”. They are very step-oriented and I struggle with getting them to commit the mental energy it takes to understand the concepts behind what they’re doing. And again, I usually feel pressure to cut bait and power through anyways because of time constraints.


I have the same problem, I’m glad it’s not just me! Sometimes I give them the answer, and tell them the only think they’re getting graded on is if they can show me how I could have possibly gotten that answer.


I teach math as the most universal world language, so I liked that you are big on vocabulary. I am as well and helping the students translate words to math. I regularly use frayer models and stories to help students see patterns in life and turn them into math representations.


First, I really enjoyed reading the article as I teach math as the most universal world language and learning to translate words to math is key. I also share everything is on a coordinate plan and we make up a lot of stories, like the gasoline or amusement park stories in the article. While I have yet to teach Algebra, I have taught four years of pre-Algebra to middle schoolers, focusing on core or big ideas in math. Since I also taught science and computer apps, attempting to integrate the subjects, like spreadsheeting and science investigations, also helps students make connections to words like independent, dependent, domain, range, etc. By the time they take Algebra over 85% of the students pass the EOC Algebra assessment in 7th or 8th grade.

Second, my biggest issue in middle school and as a standards based school is getting them to practice, practice, practice, specifically do work outside of the classroom (homework). The most effective strategy to date has been to give homework quizzes as entry tickets. They turn them directly into me and I let them know if they are accurate or inaccurate, give them back and provide 10 minutes to correct. If the majority of the class are inaccurate, then I know I have to reteach.


I also have a hard time getting students to “buy in” for the need to show their work! I have approached it to the fact that they need to “prove” their answer! Everyone needs to be able to see how the answer was gotten, because there are generally more than one way to get there!
Another dilemma that I have I just getting kids to believe that they CAN do word problems! They seem to shut down when they get to them! I try to break them down and have them pick out key words,but…they still balk at the thought.
Students also hate to try to figure out what to do! They want you to point them in the right direction and give them the method, instead of them problem solving using various strategies. This makes for great class discussions, but they really don’t like feeling challenged like that.


Three obstacles I face with my students is the lack checking their answers more than once.
When working out a math problem, the students tend to do the work in their head instead of showing it on paper.
Another skill I have noticed is that the students don’t like to study or review their homeworks for when a test or quiz comes up on a day.


I feel that at times it is difficult to have students go back and check their work on incorrect problems when the answer is given, showing their work when the answers are in the back of the book or they are using calculators, and when in partners/groups having all partake equally


I cannot get my students to use their provided time wisely to complete tasks. My students do not want to work through a problem and then check for accuracy. They feel getting it done is enough. Many students wait for someone to finish the problem and then just want to copy. They are not interested in justifying their work/answers. “I get I did it in my head” all the time.


I can’t get my students to clearly read word problems. They tend to scan the problem and guess about the correct method to solve it.
When I introduce it, I try to have students identify key words that give them hints on how to solve the problem.

I agree with others who have said they can’t get students to work together. They always lean on one other student(s) who can’t do the problem easily.
I’ve tried to have students have jobs in the group and do bonding activities when doing group work.

My students also find it difficult to show all of their work clearly. Often they get the concept quickly and feel they can do most things in their head.
Whenever I show students how to solve problems, I specify the type of work I want to see and I show it over and over again.


This is a great idea for setting norms in collaborative groups! Love it!


My sixth graders struggle with persevering when tasks are difficult, judging whether their answer is reasonable, and participating in mathematical discussions. I am fortunate to be in co-teaching situation where my teaching partner and I take turns leading the class and monitoring students as we progress through the lesson. We have found that setting clear expectations at the beginning of the year and with lots of modeling, this improves as the year progresses.

Many of the concepts presented in the article are above the level of our students, but with our ratio and proportion work, we are definitely laying the groundwork for linear equations and do set the stage for this. We use many, many contextual problems before we move to “bare” number problems. We also spend a lot of time analyzing other student’s work to address misconceptions. By doing this, students are more comfortable taking risks with sharing their work and checking for errors.


I struggle to get my students to understand the importance of showing their work for every problem in some way. I try to get them to see that some problems might not require “a ton of work” but by not showing anything, they continue to make mistakes (both major and minor) and are not able to either understand the entire process or identify where they’ve made their mistakes.

Once a mistake has been made, I want my students to figure out where they went wrong and correct it. Most don’t want to go to the effort, so I try to entice them to it by giving them points back towards their grade for making the corrections. I tell them I care more about their understanding of a topic than their grades; by taking the time to improve their understanding I tell them I’m happy to reward their efforts through their grades.

I also struggle with getting the kids to “connect” to the math through recognizing their real world applications. While I feel I provide loads of examples, too many kids seem to feel completely apathetic to the work as they seem to feel their are easier ways to handle it than actually doing the work themselves. I’m really hoping what I learn in this PD will help me draw more kids into making connections and even develop a love for math and technology.


I have a challenging time getting my students to stay on top of their work as the year progresses. There is so much momentum in the beginning, but we lose it and I’m not always sure about how to get it back. I’ve tried refreshing their journals, creating interactive journal entries, and changing the format of the homework. The latter seems to be most effective.

My students do not like to show work (as many of you have mentioned). I have a challenging time getting them to understand the importance of the crucial step and getting them to see how much easier the work can be if all steps are clear every time. I like using a graphic organizer that has space for showing steps, but this isn’t feasible long term.

I’ve also struggled with students checking their work to ensure that their answer is logical. This is not a problem during class discussions or small group sessions, but I find it to be the case with individual work. I have yet to find a solution for this one.


I sometimes have the same issue with word problems and I’ve introduced the “3 reads” strategy to my students. It works for some and I find it to be more beneficial for younger students (6th/early 7th).

See the link or just Google for more info (don’t want to type too much here):

This may or may not be effective given collaboration challenges (which I completely understand).


Three concepts or habits students tend to find difficult with me seem to be:

  • lining up the numbers in problems
    -skip steps
    -cannot differentiate the difference in minus and negative button

In those cases, I demonstrate on the board how the problem should be written and change colors with each new step process. I try to keep all operational signs the same color. I also use the promethean board to show step-by-step entry in the calculator and demonstrate the minus key is an operational function and the negative key changes the signs.


My students use their phones during class time because my school has implemented the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. To use this as a benefit, I include more activities using the phone. Sometimes we have quick searches, surveys, and voter response surveys.
My students also expect me to remind them about missed assignments. I have created a file of assignments by date. If you have missed the assignment, it is up to the student to acquire the missed assignments.
My students also have difficulty being organized. When passing out papers or giving notes, I tell students where to file the item. I then have random and scheduled notebook checks for a quiz grade.


My students struggle with math discussions, is an answer reasonable and perseverance in solving problems. I am fortunate to co teach in a classroom that allows one of us to lead the class and one to monitor and make “on the fly” adjustments. At the 6th grade I have found that even math discussions need to be modeled. Students don’t often ask themselves if their answer is reasonable. Setting clear expectations of attempting work has helped students in persevering through the math. We use many contextual problems before we move to bare number problems.