Teaching Seventh Grade Algebra

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 15, 2017

                                    “Teaching Seventh Grade Algebra”

My substitute teaching resume’ added another wrinkle to it this week when I subbed for one of the seventh grade math teachers. When I did a long-term substitute position in January in seventh grade social studies Mrs. Tiernan was on my four-person teaching team, which means we had the same 125 students in math, science, social studies, and language arts.

But here’s the thing! I was as clueless as a prepubescent boy in a Victoria’s Secret mall store! I had no clue on what they were trying to figure out. When some genius decided it would be funny to combine letters with numbers in a math equation he/she lost me. I write blog posts with letters! I figure out my checking account with numbers!

X – (y + z) + 3 – (-x – 3z) = ______


“Mr. Wolfe, I don’t understand number 13 on the work sheet!” whined a blonde-headed kid.

“Great! It’s good to know I’m not the only one!”  He stared at me confused for a moment, and when I didn’t offer anything else he turned and walked away thinking, “He’s not very smart!”

A red-headed young lady approached. “Mr. Wolfe, when x is negative and it’s added to y that is positive do you figure out the total of the equation inside the parenthesis before using the multiplier with z?”

“Sure! Why not? Go for it!” I respond, like I’m giving her permission to supersize her meal at McDonald’s.

“Are you sure?” she looks at me with growing uncertainty.

“As sure as an eskimo trying to find a polar bear in Bolivia!” (I have a habit of just making up sayings on the fly that sometimes make sense, but often are about as understandable as spaghetti and meatballs on a Chinese buffet!)

The whispers in the class increase as the period goes on. They know I’m a good social studies teacher, but have discovered that I’m as impostor in the math classroom. I’m like a bad Leonardo DeCaprio in “Can’t Catch Me Now!”

When algebra is not your strength in the midst of seventh graders they begin to question your intelligence…some even whether you have any value to the human race still! To be fair, I was a whiz with numbers before they start dating letters! I could add two numbers in my head in a snap while my classmates were struggling to “carry the one!” I was feeling pretty good about myself with I was twelve, and then someone broke into the math textbooks and inserted x’s and y’s!

Perhaps that’s where adolescent uncertainty and the reduction in a teenager’s self-worth occurred! I would have probably continued to be well-balanced until that unnatural connection between a number and a letter appeared.

And now I’m reliving those days when my first facial pimple surfaced and anything said to a student of the opposite sex could be twisted or misunderstood in ways that caused me to break out in a sweat and run in the opposite direction.

“Mr. Wolfe, I don’t understand-“

“I hear you on that one! But, hey…good luck! I’ll be praying for you!”

Explore posts in the same categories: children, coaching, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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