Article Summary

An Alternative Method to Gauss-Jordan Elimination: Minimizing Fraction Arithmetic   PDF

2010/2011, Vol. 20, No. 2, 44-50

When solving systems of equations by using matrices, many teachers present a Gauss-Jordan elimination
approach to row reducing matrices that can involve painfully tedious operations with fractions (which I will call
the traditional method). In this essay, I present an alternative method to row reduce matrices that does not
introduce additional fractions until the very last steps. The students in my classes seemed to appreciate the
efficiency and accuracy that the alternative method offered. Freed from unnecessary computational demands,
students were instead able to spend more time focusing on designing an appropriate system of equations for a
given problem and interpreting the results of their calculations. I found that these students made relatively few
arithmetic mistakes as compared to students I tutored in the traditional method, and many of these students who
saw both approaches preferred the alternative method.

About the Author:
Luke Smith has several years of experience teaching high schooL mathematics. He currently manages a math and science tutoring lab at Auburn University Montgomery.

Joan Powell is a veteran professor with over 26 years of college teaching experience.

Last modified: 30 July 2012.
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