Relevance is Built into Algebra Tiles

“When will we ever…” questions reflect the hearts of students who value their time.  It is my job to provide evidence their efforts to learn algebra is time well spent. I have found it very helpful to show them parallel thought processes from real life.  If I can relate those thought processes to a viable career, that’s even better.

While Common Core has increased the incentive for having young students use their hands to wrap their minds around math, I have resisted using algebra tiles with my high school students because, too often, the time invested has not led to a noticeable increase in retention. However, virtually all my students want to know that academics are useful.  It makes sense to preface a review of equation solving or a lesson on polynomial arithmetic with a realistic scenario and algebra tiles provide a great link.  Depending on the student population, a teacher may want to opt for electronic tiles over physical tiles to save time.

Scenario:  Wildly popular fidget spinners have fallen in disfavor for a variety of reasons.  Your company is downsizing.  How could you equitably decrease department resources?

algtilesI suspect this example will only be good for 2 years after which few will likely know what a fidget spinner is; but only the department titles would need to be changed.  Now let’s talk about combining like terms.

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