## Moving Towards Algebra

I’ve been fortunate to have an opportunity to participate in #MTBoS over the past few weeks.  It’s been a worthwhile experience to collaborate with math teachers around the world.  I’ve been able to share/use many of the resources found through this community.  This post is associated with #MTBoS mission eight.

My upper elementary students are now starting to dabble into a few algebra concepts and will be getting a formal introduction in the next few months.  There’s algebraic concepts sprinkled through my district’s curriculum, but solving equations and inequalities isn’t formally introduced till March.  That being said, I’m always on the lookout for additional algebra resources that help gradually emphasize the topic throughout the year.  Otherwise, the unit kind of brings a sticker shock to the students that haven’t encountered writing or solving equations before.

I’ve used visual patterns and Hands on Equations in the past to prepare students for the algebra unit.  Both have been beneficial in wetting the appetite for algebra.  While searching for a few other resources I came across the msmathwiki.  If you haven’t had a chance yet, check it out and maybe contribute some of your math teaching ideas.  I was eventually directed towards @cheesemonkeysf ‘s post about the Words into Math game.  I believe the idea was created by Maria and found in her post here. Two pdfs are included for this game, one informally termed beginning and one advanced.

Both of the documents can be used to match equations and inequalities.  They’re many ways to use this activity in the classroom.  I decided to print one side on orange paper and the other on yellow.  Students cut out each rectangle.  The easiest way for my students to do this was to overlap the yellow and orange sheets and cut them at once.  Both pages line up so it wasn’t that big of an issue.  Students turned all the rectangles so the blank side faced them.

Students then took turns and were allowed to turn over one orange and yellow card.  All cards that were turned over stayed that way.  This is similar to a memory matching game except the cards all stay turned over.  Students then took turns to see if they could match any of the visible cards.  Each match resulted in one point.

As the games progressed students started to become more comfortable with using equations and inequalities.  The game was over after all the game pieces were matched.  Students then bagged up the game pieces for future use.  I shared the ideas with a colleague at another school but haven’t yet heard how it went.

As the class becomes more familiar with algebra, it’s my hope that students are better able to connect past concepts to algebra topics later in the school year. This was an #eduwin for my class as we continue to explore algebra.

## Visual Patterns

My third #MTBoS post is about the visual pattern resource, visualpatterns.org.  Generally, patterns (numerical and object-based) are some of the first concepts taught to introduce algebra and number characteristics.   Initially, patterns may seem simple, but they often allow opportunities to enrich and extend instruction into more challenging concepts

My third grade class has been studying patterns and rules during the past two weeks.  One of the activities that we used can be found here.   We’re using math tasks to uncover different type of numerical patterns.   I’ve had the opportunity to visit this site multiple times during the algebra unit.  One of my classes tackled the problem below last week.

The students loved that this problem was created by a sixth grade student.  I think this added to their motivation and bonus! … also had them thinking of how they could create their own problems.  The students were given whiteboards and worked with a partner to find the fourth pattern. During that time I asked questions that helped guide the students towards a solution.  With enough time, most groups were able to find a solution.  The class then had a discussion on how the solution was derived.  Then came the fun part …  the partners decided to answer “How many lego pieces are in step 43”?  Student groups then presented their answers to the class.

At some point I’d like to have my students create and submit their own patterns to visualpatterns.org.