This is post is my submission for the Ontario Extend MOOC Activity: Like Driving a Car

Many concepts I teach build on other concepts learned at the beginning of the course, or on concepts that should have been learned in grade school or high school.  Because so many students come with a variety of backgrounds, we find we have to teach concepts such as Order of Operations, exponents and fractions.

There are many examples I could use. But I am working on one example in my Business Math 2 course that demonstrates this point.

Students have been working with the compound interest formula

To work with the formula, the need to understand • What each operation/symbol means
• Order of operations
• Exponents
• How to use the exponent button in their calculator

We are now moving on to finding i

In order to isolate i in the equation, they need to

• be able to apply algebraic skills to rearrange the formula.
• know how to take the nth root (and that this is how they can get rid of the exponent)
• understand that they need to do the correct operations in the right order

This is just one concept that depends on understanding previously learned material.

I believe that many students struggle in math because they don’t understand the basics.  Applying this to more complicated problems is very difficult if they don’t have the foundation they need.