Saturday, April 3, 2010

T.C.B.A.* (This Can't Be Algebra)

Math: you either love it or hate it. Some people get it and some people feel kind of like Scottish comedian Billy Connolly when he said, “I don't know why I should have to learn Algebra... I'm never likely to go there.” If your students are asking where they will ever use math in the future and you are wondering how to show them what an important tool math is, maybe it’s time to try some new activities. There are some really neat resources online for struggling students and for those who just need a little change of pace in the math classroom. Let’s not treat math like a required class that we just have to push our students through so they can pass the test. Math can be fun, too!

In this weeks post, Joann introduced some great pre-algebra resources from Algebra2Go. I thought these resources were neat because they use tools like YouTube and TeacherTube to get math concepts across to your media-savvy students. These multimedia resources cover many pre-algebra topics. Most topics have class notes, videos with accompanying worksheets, homework sheets, and quizzes. Many middle-school students will be delighted to connect with Charlie in the YouTube video in class, even if they have to follow along on their worksheet.

I searched The Gateway for a simple and fun example of how your students can use their Pre-Algebra skills to impress their friends today. Give your students this challenge at the beginning of a Pre-Algebra class: . The basic idea of the challenge is this: Look at any calendar. Have a student choose 4 days that form a square (2 dates next to each other, and the two directly below them). The student must figure out the sum of the four days and report that sum to you. In moments, you can tell your students what the four days are. Voila! You are magic…or at least an algebraic genius. The link above will take you to the directions for this simple algebra trick. In explaining the trick to your students, you can show them how to set up a problem, simplify an equation, and solve for a variable. It’s enjoyable enough; they might even leave class and do the trick for a friend or their parents.

Another activity on The Gateway that intrigued me is People Patterns on Teacher’s Lab from the Annenberg/CPB partnership. .  Studying patterns is important for understanding the underlying concepts in algebra. In the Beginner mode, this website shows you the first four people in a pattern and allows you to try to guess which person should come next. You only get the first two people in Intermediate, and I haven’t graduated to the Advanced level yet! The patterns can have to do with many different variables like age, color, height, type of clothes, etc. If you don’t get the pattern in a certain amount of time, it will tell you the answer and start a new pattern. It sounds easier than it is, though…you should try it! It would be a great way to start a discussion about patterns, and it would work well in small groups or individually.

There are lots of other algebra resources on The Gateway that can help you bring math concepts to life. One final resource that caught my eye was in Mrs. Glosser’s Math Goodies. .  I particularly liked the WebQuests on the site that were good examples of real-world math. If you click on the Teachers link on the main page, you’ll find lots of other lessons and interactive activities that grade as you go.

All of these resources are tools for you to share your love of math with your students. I have to admit that I had a little bit of a hard time writing this post because I got stuck playing with the people patterns and trying out the calendar trick. I really liked algebra in school and I hope lots of your students do too. If you aren’t a math teacher, you can still have fun with some of these activities. Please browse The Gateway for more great resources in your subject and let us know what you like.

~Peggy's Corner 4/3/2010~

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