Algebra-
Practice develops the skills

The Egyptians and Greeks wanted to find a
way to describe the general relationships and connections between objects and
events in the mathematical world, just as we often want to describe connections
between people, objects and events in the real world (for example,
"Jeannie gave the shovel to Peter"). To do this the Greeks and
Egyptians developed algebra.

It must be said up front that thinking
in terms of the general relations and the abstract connections between objects
and events, takes practice.

It's very similar to developing a
physical skill, like learning to run long distances. If you aren't used to
running, or haven't been running for a long time, at first even running short
distances seems very hard. But over time, if you keep practicing, your running
skills and your endurance improve. The improvement is gradual, so you might not
notice a big difference from day to day. Eventually, however, running seems
much easier, and you can easily cover the shorter distances that once were very
difficult.

Having said that, there are also some strategies that can
help make the situation easier (just as there are ways to make your running
easier). Mathematicians constantly rely on these strategies to help them solve
difficult problems.

Here are some problem solving strategies that you
may want to make use of when working on a math or economics problem:

Problem
Solving Strategies

-Make a diagram

-Make a list of facts or known
information

-Make a table or a chart of know information

-Make a list
of questions that you want to answer

-Make a list of unknowns- facts that
you don't yet know.

Keep this list in mind as you work to improve your
algebra skills.

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Copyright Jen Schellinck, 2006