When we ask algebra students to tell us about absolute value, we usually get an answer along the lines of “something that is always positive.” Students immediately question their answer when asked about the absolute value of zero (0). Sometimes our more advanced students say that it has a V-shaped graph or mention the piecewise definition. Despite the varied answers given by our students, seldom do we hear the answer “distance from 0.” However, using distance from 0 is the perfect way to help students understand absolute-value computations. Distance from 0 also provides a foundation for solving equations and inequalities.
Sharon E. Taylor, email@example.com, teaches in the department of mathematical sciences at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. Her interests are statistics education and the appropriate use of technology in the classroom.
Kathleen Cage Mittag, firstname.lastname@example.org, retired from the University of Texas–San Antonio. She is still active in making presentations at conferences on statistics, technology, and the use of manipulatives in the classroom.