Like most caring algebra teachers who have been at it for many years, there are very few algebra topics that I have difficulty getting a student to understand. Teachers who are in tune with the learning process become aware of what makes a topic difficult and systematically remove barriers to understanding. Getting concepts to stick, though, is not so easy. Much of high school math can seem irrelevant to students, which is why I believe there can be difficulty with recall. I believe part of my job is to convince students otherwise…and least make it relevant enough for them to be able to remember.
Relevance is a moving target, so I am constantly on the lookout for memorable connections. Here’s a quick and captivating lesson about a system of parallel lines. The “cool factor” video that makes it stick is followed by a two-minute discussion:
- Which cab will be cheaper for a 20-mile ride? Why?
Taxi cab A: c=7+3.50m
Taxi cab B: c=8+3.50m
2. Which subway pass is cheaper to commute 20 miles? Why?
Pass A: c=10+2.50m
Pass B: c =10+3.50m
The taxi cab fares run parallel while the subway passes have the same y-intercept. Students find the contrast almost as interesting as what they learn about haling a taxi…almost. If a student forgets about parallel lines later, a quick mention of comparing the taxi rates usually takes care of the lapse in memory. The video provides a memory anchor.