Algebra for the Win!

I teach 8th grade Algebra I not by choice but by assignment.  I found out about this assignment via a text from a colleague who looked at the master class schedule board in July.  July of 2012.  At the time I was in a state of shock.  “Noooooo!  I can’t possibly teach middle schoolers!” and a lot of other not for public consumption thoughts entered my mind.  Those 8th grade Algebra students just started their sophomore year in college, and I am on my seventh crop of 8th graders.

Fast forward to now.  I can’t imagine not teaching these squirrelly middle schoolers.  I am filled with happiness and pride watching them work, like a parents watching their children sleep.  Same thing happens listening to them talk about math.  Occasionally a dark thought fills my mind such as, “Why are we teaching this stuff?  Who cares if they can factor a trinomial?”  Then I quickly push that aside with, “They are learning to think analytically.  That is the true power of algebra.”

Last week an 8th grader bounced into my room, her excitement so extreme that it took about five sentences to say, “I used algebra to solve a problem for my cross country team!”  I told her I wanted to hear all about it (I learned early on in this adventure that you can go down a 20-minute rabbit-hole with 8th graders), so if she could email me the story with any pictures, that would be great.  What follows is what she sent to me (with permission from her parents to post it here):

“This is the process I went through and the reason I even needed an equation. 
I was trying to figure out a way to fundraise for my cross country team so I decided we could do a raffle ticket drawing. I decided the prize would be a $75 gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods and that the tickets would cost $10 each. I wanted to find out the amount of money I would make if I sold a large amounts of tickets so I needed to make an equation rather than continuing my function chart. I went through a long process with my dad’s friend and he couldn’t figure it out. Finally I realized that the equation would be
y= x(10)-75 
x=number of tickets sold
y=profit
So I was then able to sub in my variables with numbers. I checked the equation and it was correct! I was very proud and I realized that algebra is actually useful! 
Mia

Thinking Process

There is more work but it is on a different sheet.”

I was blown away by not only the thought process she went through but also her joy in solving the problem.  She is trying to raise enough money to get new uniforms for the girls’ cross country team.*  Yesterday, at the first cross country meet of the season, she ran a personal best and broke the middle school record.  Considering our high school girls team won state for track a few springs ago, this accomplishment heralds great things for her running career.

Thought + Joy + Initiative = SUCCESS

[NOTE:  Addition is commutative and Talent is not necessary to the equation!]

And now, back to my weekend job of folding clothes and vacuuming.

* If you, gentle reader, would like to make a contribution to the uniform fund or purchase a raffle ticket, please email me at virginia.cornelius@gocommodores.org.