When you need help in algebra, they never change the method, they just go s... l... o... w... e... r. "PLEASE EXCUSE MY DEAR AUNT SALLIE" and/or "PEMDAS" is, and has been, the only way educators teach algebra (at least as long as I can remember...late 70's and on); and nobody has been bold enough to "mess" with mathmatics tradition. Go to any algebra "help site" on the web, and you will find the "same 'ole" methods: a couple of different examples, nice graphics, and some clever ways of showing...PEMDAS.
There is a different way: it is easier, more conistent, has fewer steps, and is fundamentally sound! I call it "the bracket method." I have been using (and tweaking) this method of teaching algebra for almost 12 years. The results have been nothing short of amazing. Don't ask me, ask my students!
It all started about 15 years ago at Centaurus High School in Colorado. I had the priviledge of teaching a prealgebra class with a lot of ESL students (Thanks Mr. Bedore!). I did not speak any Spanish, and so I started developing a way to show algebra without all the rules and vocabulary of PEMDAS. By God's good grace, it worked! We (the students and I) started having great success. In fact, the math department ended up creating a "catchup course" the next year so that these kids could jump "tracks" (from low level to norm), and eventually take algebra 2 and even precalculus by the time they were seniors!.
Over the years, I have taught every level of 8th, 9th and 10th grade algebra (including resource, special ed., integrated, esl, and NYS regents) using this method. The system makes sense; the majority of the kids grasp the concept very quickly; and in 46 weeks your kids will become "algebra geeks". Their algebra foundation will be solid, and their confidence level will increase almost immediately (within the first 3 lessons!): they might actually start to like math!
