Making Algebra Child's Play
In 1986, Dr. Henry Borenson revolutionized the teaching of algebra by developing a system that would enable children as young as 8 years of age to solve algebraic equations such as 4x + 3 = 3x + 10. After receiving a patent for Hands-On Equations, he started Borenson and Associates in order to disseminate the program and to provide teacher training.
Now, 30 years later, more than a million students in the United States have benefited from Hands-On Equations and more than 50,000 teachers have attended the Making Algebra Child's Play workshop which his company provides to school districts nationwide. The response to the program from both students and teacher's has been very positive, as noted by educational writer Julia Steiny in "Fifth graders having a blast with algebra".
What is the secret to the success of the program? “In a matter of minutes I can have any 8-year old solve algebraic equations that many 9th graders cannot solve, ” says Borenson. “The secret is the specific manner in which Hands-On Equations makes the concepts concrete and visual. It is whole brain learning at its best.”
The system uses a blue pawn to represent the unknown number “x”, numbered cubes to represent the constants, and an image of the balance scale on which to represent the equation. The student then uses “legal moves” to simplify the equation by removing an equal number of blue pawns from each side.
More recently, Borenson developed app versions of Hands-On Equations. The Fun Way to Learn Algebra, Hands-On Equations 1, 2 and 3 for IOS, Android, and Kindle devices. The apps have obtained STELLAR Ratings and have received strong reviews.
Although the app was intended for young kids, Borenson was pleasantly surprised that many of the five-star reviews came from adults who had not experienced prior success with algebra. For example, one user wrote, “This app taught me in 5 minutes what I could never understand in algebra.” Another wrote, “I’m terrified of mathematics and once I practiced with this, it really opened up a whole new world for me and made me feel so comfortable with algebra.”
Dr. Henry Borenson has been a mathematics educator for close to 50 years. His teaching experience includes working with low achieving students in the South Bronx of New York City, as well as working with Math Olympiad students at the Stuyvesant High School in New York City. He has served as a classroom teacher, a mathematics supervisor and a K-12 mathematics coordinator.
In 1986, Dr. Borenson received a U.S. patent for Hands-On Equations, his innovative approach to introducing algebra to young students. He then started his own company, Borenson and Associates, in order to disseminate the program and to provide teacher training. Dr. Borenson, along with his group of instructors, have now provided the Making Algebra Child's Play workshop to more than 50,000 teachers of grades 3 - 8.