Friday, January 9, 2015

Teaching Equations

Every grade in middle school has some type of equation lesson. There are many different ways to approach teaching equations. For some it is with "Algebra Tiles". Those tiles that some how mean x or 1 and when you stack them together it makes the equation. For me as a visual learner, I understand them and can bridge the gap between the two (equation on paper and blocks), but it never seemed to solve the real problem of learning the "skill" of solving equations.

So after almost ten years of teaching equations I resolve that the best way to teach them is to practice them. Make them bellwork, classwork, and homework. Give multiple examples, scaffolding with notes, scaffolding with practice, then take off those training wheels and let the students do it themselves. My favorite approach to solving equations last year that I will do again was daily quizzes. Give the students a daily quiz on four to eight equations (depending on length). Motivate the students to solve the equations by giving them a goal. The first day may be a trial to see what they can do. Day two and three may be a goal of getting one to two equations solved correctly, and so on until the students are able to correctly solve all eight equations.

 Now with repetition and repeated practice comes lack of motivation, tiredness, and weary students. Make this a fun daily quiz and help them stay motivated with an incentive. The incentive could be stickers, tickets for a drawing, candy, or a letter grade. Keep it fun and the students will be motivated and engaged! I did this technique with candy, instant gratification! Students knew that day that they would get a reward. I also gave class participation points for the number they got correct which was an easy 100% for most students. This also kept students engaged.

When planning for equations I always like to use one of my formative assessments at the beginning and end of the unit to check on what my students know. The card sort activity that is my favorite for equations is Writing & Solving Multi-step Equations, which helps students develop concepts on their own and be able to "sort out" how to solve equations. I can always count on this activity to help bridge the gap for my students. In the end it's not just about what knowledge was gained, but what was helpful to the student!

Happy Teaching!

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