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Absolute Value: The Elevated Math Approach

§ February 27th, 2012 Comments Off§ Filed under From the Elevated Math Team, Math, Teaching Math § Tagged , , , , , , ,

Math students who begin their journey into absolute value usually evaluate expressions with absolute value as “always positive.” That is until they encounter the absolute value of zero, and then their answers become “always positive or zero.”

The formal definition of absolute value is |x| = x if x ≥ 0 or –x if x < 0. The negative x confuses students, and they never quite understand that it is the absolute value that is always positive or zero. Unless this misunderstanding is corrected, the situation becomes more problematic when solving inequalities that involve absolute value, which can lead to unhappy teachers and muddled students who usually conclude, “we don’t like math.”

In our Elevated Math lessons we make it clear that absolute value is distance, and distance is always positive or zero.  We begin in lesson M3.1 with instruction on negative numbers followed by problems, and then we introduce the concept of opposite numbers before explaining absolute value:

Here is how we do it: § Read the rest of this entry…