Algebra 1 is a basic requirement for higher-level math and science courses. Additionally, the skills you learn in this course will help you in a variety of real-life problem-solving situations. Algebra is helpful in a wide variety of academic subjects and careers outside math and science. Therefore, even if you don’t think of yourself as a math person, passing this course will be essential to your future educational success.

Review the skills you learned in pre-algebra. During the summer, many students forget a lot of the math they learned the previous year. Algebra 1 will build upon the concepts you learned in pre-algebra, and you may find yourself lost without a thorough review of the previous year’s material. Devote the first few weeks of the course to going over concepts you had trouble with while making sure you don’t fall behind your class.

Understand one concept before moving on to the next. Algebra is not a subject where you can study a unit, understand and forget, then move on to a completely different topic. Instead, the math you learn will incorporate more and more of the basic skills and apply them in increasingly complex ways. If you struggle with fully grasping a concept, get help immediately instead of ignoring the issue and relying on memorization, for example, to help you get the right answer on a test.

Practice problems expressed in a variety of ways. To pass algebra 1, you must be able to solve problems expressed as written word problems and equations. You may find it easy to memorize equations and plug numbers into them but have difficulty with word problems. Being able to apply the right equation to a world problem is of fundamental importance, both for passing your course and for using algebra in real situations.

Avoid becoming overly reliant on a calculator. It may be easy to plug numbers into a calculator and arrive at the right number. However, if you don’t understand what you are asking the calculator to do, you may find yourself utterly lost when dealing with more complex problems. For example, you can plug in the equation of a line into a graphing calculator and the calculator will show you what the line will look like. However, if you don’t understand what the individual variables mean and how the calculator produces the line, you will not be able to graph a line on your own.

Get extra help. Many students have problems with the pace at which algebra courses move, or the sheer number of skills they have to apply to solve even one problem. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask your teacher to show you a different way to come to a solution or to explain the answer again. Look into after-school tutoring or join a study group for further help.

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Based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, Sarah Nyako has been writing professionally since 2008. Her area of expertise is health, fitness and the pharmaceutical industry. She is currently working towards a master's degree in medical writing.

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