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14515 Ventura Blvd., #250
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(Corner of Van Nuys Blvd. & Ventura Blvd.)
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Chief instructor: Chiyako Suzuki
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Aaron Murdock is a 3rd grader at the MAC-System South Pasadena location. He has been a member for two years. He scored over 90% in both math and English on our Practice Standardized Test. On the actual state tests he scored advanced in both math and English!
Mayu Kuchler has been continuously enrolled in our MAC Math Program since September 2002. Mayu, a very hard worker, never gives up. If she runs into a problem she doesn’t understand, she will ask questions and try several times until she solves the problem. Mayu is rarely absent and does her homework diligently. Her dedication and hard work shows. She is currently more than halfway finished with Geometry. Mayu’s ERB scores are always nines – the highest possible score!! She also scores above 95% on our MAC Progress Test.
Atsuko Ichikawa is the Chief Instructor from the MAC-System Palos Verdes Learning Center. The following is an informative excerpt from a presentation she gave at one of our events.
“Essential Math Skills & the Importance of Algebra”
Today, I would like to discuss about the importance of developing algebraic thinking, and the difference between elementary algebra and high school level algebra, which will allow you to become familiar with our standards of expectation.
First of all, as you know, elementary level math is all about learning numbers and how to manipulate them. Young students must learn 4 operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. So it becomes essential for students to develop good computational skills. Both accuracy and speed are expected at this level.
Elementary students must also become familiar with “real life” math, which involves geometry, measurement, time, fraction, and money. As they learn these concepts, they must also learn to connect the ideas, or to “integrate” them. For instance, when students learn to calculate time, they learn to integrate their knowledge of a circle and fraction to compute half an hour, a quarter of an hour, and so on. As they do so, they are developing logical reasoning skills, which also enables them to think “algebraically”.
Once they acquire the basic skills, they must learn to “apply” them in different situations. The average student is unable to develop this skill because of under-exposure to word problems and application problems at school. However, at MAC, we start training students to solve problems as early as kindergarten. Once a kindergarten student learns to add one, we start asking them, “What did you add to 5 to get 6?” 5 + ? = 6
Eventually, in 1st grade level, students are asked to solve a problem such as this:Jane is 5 years older than Mike. Jane is 18 years old. How old is Mike?
The students need to interpret the data and think, “Since Jane is 5 years older than Mike, Mike should be 5 years younger than Jane. So to find out the age of Mike, I have to subtract 5 from 18.” 18 – 5 = 13
Or, they may think, “Since Jane is 5 years older than Mike, Jane must be Mike’s age plus 5. And since Jane is 18, Mike’s age plus 5 more years must equal to 18.” ? + 5 = 18
Here, I would like to point out that it is very important for parents not to help their child solve the equation algebraically. At this stage, the students need to develop logical reasoning skills in order to “think” algebraically. It is essential that younger students discover that in order to find out what ? is, they must do 18 – 5. If you rush through the concept and tell them that they simply need to do the opposite operation, they end up not fully understanding the concept.
Only after students have fully understood the concept behind algebraic equations, do we then teach them how to “solve” algebraically. This is usually taught in Pre-Algebra or Algebra, however, we at MAC start introducing this in lower levels, sometimes as early as 2nd grade if they are ready.
In order to “solve” algebraically, students are not only required to comprehend and interpret the data, but they are also required to “translate” the data into a mathematical equation, word for word. Once students are able to “translate”, they start learning more complex properties and theorems to expand their problem solving skills, using more than one variable, and using operations such as factoring and FOIL.
Because Algebra is used in all disciplines of mathematics, it becomes crucial for students to master it. And in order to be a successful student in Algebra, it is crucial to have mastered the basic skills in all 4 operations using numbers, fractions and decimals.
As instructors, we often encounter students in upper grade levels lacking in the essential basic skills, and therefore having difficulty in algebra. So please remember starting young has its many benefits.
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