“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?
I 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.