September 26, 2013

Dear Eighth Grade Parents,

We have just completed our first chapter in algebra. Your student will be bringing the test home for you to sign. Although this chapter contains many important concepts that are foundations for algebra, most of the objectives dealt with topics that were introduced and practiced in sixth and seventh grade. Some of the concepts we covered were: writing and evaluating algebraic expressions, operations with positive and negative numbers, simplifying expressions using the order of operations, and graphing points in the coordinate plane. During this chapter we also studied powers and square roots, including square roots that are equal to decimals that never end and never repeat. These numbers are irrational, belonging to one of the classifications of real numbers. Students were asked to identify and classify other types of numbers as well. The other classifications for real numbers are natural numbers, whole numbers, integers, and rational numbers. The end of the chapter covered the importance of the commutative, associative, and distributive properties and their use in simplifying and combining like terms. It also presented lessons in graphing functions by generating ordered pairs. Ordered pairs are generated by picking a value for x (input), substituting it into the function, and then finding the value of y (output).
Most of the mistakes that were made on the test resulted from students not paying attention to detail. It is very important that they read directions carefully and follow them. Students can also improve their grades by looking back at the answer they have just written to make sure that it is reasonable. Other mistakes were made because some students did not know the meaning of the words “sum” and “product.”
The vocabulary and properties that we learn in algebra are extremely important, and the skills we learn in each lesson build upon previous work. Encourage your student to look over the examples presented in each day’s lesson, memorize the vocabulary, and use the online study tools presented with the lesson. The textbook offers some excellent resources on the publisher’s website, including video tutorials, extra practice, and a help site for parents. For easy access, I have included the link for this site on my class wiki.
You may have noticed two “extra credit” columns in the grade book. Eighth graders have had two opportunities to earn bonus points this quarter. The first is from the daily time tests that they take. These tests occasionally have a bonus problem at the bottom. Students who get this question correct earn a bonus point. The other was an optional assignment from the textbook on perimeter. Although the maximum points earned were six, the Fast Direct program specified that I needed to enter the maximum points as 100. This does not adversely affect their grade; the points are still counted as extra credit.
In Chapter 2, your child will solve a variety of equations in one variable, including equations that result from proportion and percent problems. They will also work with evaluating and solving formulas for given values.
As always, I appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.