Algebra for people who don't like algebra


Joan Ashley


Joan Ashley is an OU PGCE mathematics tutor, and freelance consultant and trainer. She has successfully led a wide variety of CPD events nationally, including several for teachers of learners who were afraid of algebra. She was one of six teachers involved in the pilot of Malcolm Swan’s the "Learning mathematics through discussion and reflection" as a result of which she totally changed the way she taught algebra.


Report on the Workshop


Throughout the session we did various activities from the Standards Unit box, and I was reminded of how enjoyable these activities are.


We started the session by interpreting multiple representations of algebraic expressions using words, symbols, tables of values and area diagrams. This was a useful icebreaker and enabled everyone to participate.


We did a really interesting activity where we each had a list of equations and we had to write down what the equation meant in words. We then had to fold the original equations so that our partner could not see them, and our partner then had to write the equation from our description in words.

This showed how easy it is for maths specialists to make mistakes, let alone
our learners, and led to some great discussions. As time was running out, we looked at performing number magic as a whole group activity, by analysing simple number tricks and explaining how they work using algebra. We all had an opportunity to explain our solution to the rest of the group


We regularly use the activities from the Standards Unit box in our classes at college, but this session was a very useful reminder of how exciting and fun learning can be.

Tania Pickford (Stoke-on-Trent College)