When my math coach and I sat down to plan my algebra unit I had no idea how well my students would do and how far we would be able to go with it.
There have been several teachable moments throughout this unit where we've been able to go above and beyond the ideas that I had planned to covered. This unit has been interrupted by so many things including Benchmark test. My mind reels with the thoughts of what we could have done had we not had all the interruptions. It has been a real confidence booster for so many of students who struggled through our last unit on fractions.
My math coach gave me a huge box of materials to be used for Hands-On Equations when we started planning this unit. I have to admit that the box was so overwhelming that when she first gave it to me I wanted to ignore it. I didn't want to take the time to deal with it.
I am so glad I decided to deal with that box.
In a matter of thirty minutes or less my students were solving some pretty big equations yesterday. They immediately understand what a variable is and its role in equations. They understood that an equal sign doesn't mean solve this problem and find the answer. They were able to see the equal sign as the middle point on a scale where each side of it had to be balanced or equal.
I was so incredibly proud of them, but even more important they were proud of themselves. They had been so scared of this unit just because it was called Algebra. But by the end of our time together yesterday they were all saying how easy algebra is.
I was thrilled because algebra has always been my strong point in math, but I never really understood the why. I never saw the equal sign as the middle point of a scale. I was just able to regurgitate what my teacher was doing. Because of that teaching algebra has always been one of my low points. I didn't have the knowledge to explain it the way I need to. That changed yesterday.
So what is Hands-On Math?
We started class with some discussion about what an equal sign meant. I let them share their ideas and then I brought out my scale - though I use that term loosely because it is not an actually scale. It just looks like one.
We started with a blue pawn representing X on one side of the scale and a cube representing 5 on the other side. Students were immediately able to see that in order for the scale to be balanced then x had to equal 5.
From there I followed the book that comes with this kit.
This little book made my job incredibly easy. According to this book, you can use this kit to teach students as low as 3rd grade how to solve algebraic equation. I might have rolled my eyes when I first read that, but after just one day I totally believe it.
You can see from the picture above how we slowly stepped it up.
Students were given their own scale and pieces so that they could manipulate the equations.
Students were writing the equation and solving for X with ease.
They were primarily using guess and check yesterday. I did show them how to solve without the scale or using guess and check at the end of class. Again they were scared when I told them what I wanted to show them, but as soon as I did it I heard lots of "Oh! That's easy!"
They will begin practicing it on their own soon.
I can't wait.