Algebra 1 Help for Struggling Students

Most students take algebra 1 during 8th grade or freshman year of high school. If your child is struggling in his or her algebra class, keep reading for an overview of the algebra 1 curriculum and studying tips.

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How to Help Your Struggling Student with Algebra


A variable is an unknown quantity in an equation, like the 'x' in 4x + 3 = 23. If your child struggles with solving for a variable, it could be because he or she doesn't follow the proper process. Here's one rule your child should always remember: What you do to one side of an equation, you must do to the other side.

The first step is always to isolate the variable. So, in the example above, you would subtract three from both sides, like this:

4x + 3 - 3 = 23 - 3

Now your equation should be 4x = 20. Next, you'll divide both sides by four.

4x ÷ 4 = 20 ÷ 4

And that's it! The answer is x = 5. Walk your student through these steps the first time. Then, find a similar problem and watch while your child tries to solve it on his or her own. More complex problems may include two variables. However, regardless of how complex the problem is, your child should follow the same basic process to solve for a variable.


Another important algebra 1 skill is graphing. In order to graph an equation, it needs to be in slope-intercept form, which is y = mx + b. Here, m represents the line's slope and b represents the y-intercept, which is where the line intersects with the y-axis.

If your child struggles with graphing equations, first make sure that he or she can identify each part. On a piece of paper, write the equation y = mx + b, and then ask him or her to identify the slope and the y-intercept.

Sometimes, your child will have to rearrange an equation so that it's in slope-intercept form. Below is an example of how to rearrange the equation y + 5 = 4x.

y + 5 = 4x

y + 5 - 5 = 4x - 5

y = 4x - 5

Now your child can graph this equation. Using graph paper to keep everything neat and organized, your child should first draw the x- and y-axes. Then, locate the y-intercept on the graph. In the equation above, the y-intercept is -5. From there, your child can reconstruct the line using the slope. Because the slope is four (or 4/1), your child can count up four spaces and move one space to the right. Connect these two points to reconstruct the line.

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