Sunday, December 14, 2014

STUDENT POST: How To Use Algebra Tiles

By Loiza,

In math class we used squares and rectangles to help us solve equations.  Mr Nathaniel tells us that we have to find the area, perimeter, or a solution for the amount of blocks that he lays out. We have to know what each block stands for and that’s the way we make an equation out of the soft squares and rectangles.  Those tools that we are using help us to make an equation, solve the equation by knowing the amount each of them stand for. The blocks make it easier for some people to figure out the answer.  Because its visual, you have to look at the blocks, know what each one stands for, and make the equation that you have to solve using the blocks.

  • The small square stands for 1 (because it's 1 long and 1 wide)
  • The small rectangle stands for x (because it's 1 long and x wide)
  • The big square stands for x(because it's x long and x wide)
  • Blue means positive, and red means it's negative

For some kids, using visual logic, or a hands-on approach can help to remove barriers to understanding, and can take some of the intimidation and fear out of learning about difficult concepts.  Using Algebra tiles to teach polynomial multiplication and factoring quadratics help to reinforce an area model of multiplication.  Our recent workshop with renowned math educator Erma Anderson reinforced the idea of moving between multiple representations: from symbolic to pictorial to verbal to tabular and back.  Students are asked to use the tiles to represent ideas, then to illustrate those idea through drawing, and equation solving.  

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