Hands On in the Pre-Algebra Classroom

What do you remember from your pre-algebra days? Some basic calculations, drills, and exercises in workbooks?  Former New Hope tutor Paul Mason approaches pre-algebra as an immediately hands-on enterprise, putting the numbers "to work" from day one. Students have:

  • calculated the surface area of a soda can, estimated the amount of air pressure on it, then used air pressure to crush them instantly simply by boiling water and then cooling them;
  • gotten water to stay in an unsealed jar when it was upside down by placing an inflated balloon over the mouth of the jar, and then used the formula for the area of a circle to calculate the air pressure on the mouth of the jar;
  • had car races down ramps and graphed distance at different angles of incline; and
  • made paper helicopters and calculated how long they would take to descend into the grand canyon.

Mr. Mason's Pre-Algebra Class (with apologies for the fuzzy photo!) 2015-16

This method of teaching may sound more at home in a science classroom. Mr. Mason believes that using the numbers and formulas of pre-algebra helps to make math more interesting and "sticks" with students better.