Joshua and Jordann, our two oldest grand
kids, are approaching the grade levels where algebra is taught and our six other
grand kids aren’t far behind. And I am a concerned grandparent. Perhaps you too
are a concerned grandparent or parent.

It’s no news
that students that are successful learning arithmetic often stumble and even
fall, without ever getting up, when faced with learning algebra.

As a math
and science educator, I can report that little attention is given to laying the
conceptual groundwork students need to make the transition from arithmetic to
algebra.

When
classroom computers became available in the early 1980s (my first computer was
an 8K Commodore PET with tape cassette drive), I believed that finally, we had a
tool that would make learning algebra not only relevant but also easy! That
belief was—and still is— based on the fact that programming requires

*algebraic*thinking.
Perhaps the
most fundamental concept in algebra and programming is the concept of a

*variable*. In the typical algebra text, the variable concept is briefly mentioned and then quickly followed by the never-ending song and dance between the x’s and the y’s. The variable*x*becomes synonymous with*unknown*and for many students, the*x*and algebra itself remains an unknown.
Dr. Zalman Usiskin, in his
article,

*Conceptions of School Algebra and Uses of Variables*discusses and gives examples of the**five different ways**the variable concept is used in algebra. [Click here http://oak.ucc.nau.edu/smg224/401pdfs/algebrareadings/usiskin1.pdf
to download a copy of his article.]

He goes on to say that computer programming makes use of all
five uses of the variable! For this and many other reasons (problem-solving and
logical thinking are just two) I hope my grand kids are willing to learn
introductory programming so that I can help them understand the importance and
relevance of algebra.

It is in this spirit that I have started a second blog
devoted to helping beginners learn to program, maintaining contact with the
teachers I work with, and to having a place to share my math and science
programming projects. To visit

*Pops’ Scratch Blog*, go to
The

and while you’re there, check out the site as it is a very friendly
place for kids of all ages and offers the opportunity to become part of a programming community that has 12 million registered members that have created and uploaded almost 14 million programming
projects.*Scratch*programming language is free and can be downloaded at

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