Algebra 1 Unit 3 Interactive Notebook Pages | Solving Equations

Unit 3 of Algebra 1 is all about solving equations and their applications.  We start off with multi-step equations, because 1-step and 2-step equations were covered in Unit 1: Foundations of Algebrapic_Page_01

Day 1: Multi-Step Equationspic_Page_02pic_Page_03

In addition to the notes that went into our composition books, students were each given a full-sized flowchart over solving one-variable equations.  We did an example as a class, and then I also keep a class set laminated so students can use them with dry-erase markers whenever they like. Students referenced their notes and the laminated flowcharts while working on homework in class. Picture2

Day 2: Solving Multi-Step Equations with Special Case Solutions
To start off the lesson, we did a recap warm-up over the prior day’s lesson. pic_Page_04

We then went into a foldable that covers what special solutions are and when they arise. pic_Page_05pic_Page_06

To get even more practice, students did the following Types of Solutions Sort, which emphasized common student errors and misconceptions I’ve noticed in the past. pic_Page_07

Day 3: Writing Equations to Solve Multi-Step Equations
We started off the lesson with a recap warm-up that contained special solution types.  pic_Page_08

From there, we moved into our main set of notes for the day, with an emphasis on marking the text (NOTE: this is the same color-coding we used in Unit 1). pic_Page_09pic_Page_10

Day 4: Absolute Value Equations
Like usual, we started off the lesson with a recap warm-up of the previous day’s information. pic_Page_11

We started off the topic of absolute value equations by really thinking about what an absolute value means/does.  pic_Page_12pic_Page_13

From there, we used the information we’ve gathered to solve absolute value equations a bit more efficiently (without using the modified cover-up question mark method). Students had the even numbered problems as homework that night.  pic_Page_14pic_Page_15

In addition to the notes that went into the composition books, students were given a flowchart for solving absolute value equations to reference whenever they got stuck. Here’s an example of how they could use it!  Just like the others, I keep a class set of these laminated so students can use them with dry erase markers whenever they get stuck.  I like to color-code each type of flowchart to make it easy to grab the exact one that they need from that unit. IMG_1710

Day 5: Absolute Value Equations Word Problems
To begin the class, we started off by working backwards: writing the absolute value equation that could’ve produced the given solutions. pic_Page_16

From there, we went into story problems involving absolute value equations. pic_Page_17

Day 6: Ratios and Proportions
We started the day off with a recap warm-up covering the last two days of information (all absolute value equation related).
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The first thing that we talked about is what a ratio is and what it means to be proportional. pic_Page_19

We then used the definition of proportional to solve equations requiring cross-multiplication. pic_Page_20

After these examples, students filled out the other side of the flowchart that they were given on Day 1 with a more difficult example of solving for a variable in a proportion. Picture1

Day 7: Percent of Change
Percent of change is a funny topic to cover in Oregon…most of our textbook’s examples are about sales tax, and we have none.  If we go to Washington, we just flash our Oregon ID and presto, bingo, bango, no more sales tax (for the little stuff).  Anyway, we find other examples to try to make it more meaningful. pic_Page_21pic_Page_22pic_Page_23

After taking notes, we did this Percent of Change Scavenger Hunt. Students worked really hard on it and had a lot of fun.  For some of them, it was difficult to remember to put a negative sign on their r-value when it was a percent decrease!

Day 8: Literal Equations, Part 1
We recap percent of change problems and then move into basic solving literal equations problems. pic_Page_24

We discuss what a literal equation is, compare and contrast the difference between literal equations and regular equations, and also introduce the flowchart method of solving. pic_Page_25pic_Page_26

Day 9: Literal Equations, Day 2
We move into more complicated literal equations that require more than one step to solve.  After doing a few, students are able to choose which method they wish to solve with (I’m partial to the algebraic method, but some students love the flowchart way). pic_Page_27pic_Page_28

After notes, we play my favorite Connect 4 game for solving literal equations.  We only played until 6 people won, which allowed us to get through about 70% of the problems.  From there, students spent the remainder of class working on a festive Carving Pumpkins coloring activity for solving literal equations.  This activity was awesome because students were super engaged in the coloring (every last one of them–even the boys! PS: I have 22 boys in this one class…ay, yai, yai), and it was super easy for me to find common trends that I might need to readdress (the eyes for Pumpkin #2 were the most common error).  Also, for students, this activity is fairly self-checking, which is a great confidence boost for many of them.

Here’s an example that one student colored!  She even named the pumpkins. carving_pumpkins_in_action

Day 10: Stations Review Activity Day
We did a recap warm-up over solving literal equations and then spend the rest of class doing a stations activity with my solving equations unit task cards. pic_Page_29

Day 11: Review Day
Day 12: TEST!

Algebra 1 Unit 2 Interactive Notebook Pages | Relations & Functions

Here are the notes I used this year for the 2nd unit of Algebra 1:

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Day 1:
We started off the unit with a classifying variables sort. This was a good way to jog students’ memories about their prior knowledge, and it also served as a jumping point into domain and range!
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From there, we went into what a relation, domain, and range is, and how it relates to independent and dependent variables. pictures_Page_03pictures_page_04.jpg

We then made the distinction that there are two types of relations, discrete and continuous, and we must pay attention to context to determine what type of relation we have. pictures_Page_05

From there, we started to talk about all of the different ways we could represent a discrete relation, and how we find the domain and range from each representation.  We used this foldable, which went over great with the students.  They caught on super quickly, and they mentioned that they liked having one example to do together, and one to do on their own for each representation. pictures_Page_06pictures_page_07.jpg

Day 2:
We started off with a word problem to review domain and range in a (discrete) relation. pictures_Page_08
From there, we filled out a Frayer vocabulary model for functions, to make sure that students really understood what they are and aren’t. pictures_Page_09

Then, using the definition for function we just wrote down on the Frayer model, we made a cheat sheet to refer back to that tells us all of the different ways a relation (discrete or continuous) would NOT be a function.  pictures_Page_10

We practiced classifying functions using a card sort from Amazing Mathematics.  Instead of cutting and pasting, we decided to color-code instead! Love it! (In the words of one of my students, this is the page that has “fourteen thousand graphs.”)pictures_Page_11

We then filled out another cheat sheet, this time for domain and range of continuous functions.  Students reasoned together through the inequalities and we talked about what a bound actually means (we used a lot of basketball references). pictures_Page_12
We practiced finding the domain and range for continuous relations (as well as determining whether or not they were a function), using the following set of notes.  PS: It took me a LONG time to figure out how to make a parabola or a trigonometric wave using Microsoft’s shape tools.  I feel overly proud of this set of notes! You can download them herepictures_Page_13pictures_page_14.jpg

Day 3:

We began with a recap warm-up on domain and range for continuous relations. pictures_Page_15
To make sure that students didn’t forget about discrete relations, we went back and did more practice with determining their domain and range, and also stating whether or not the relations were functions.  pictures_Page_16pictures_page_17.jpg

Day 4:
We started off with a reference sheet on function notation and how to read/say it. pictures_Page_18
From there, we did a lot of practice with function notation.  pictures_Page_19

Inside this set of notes, we really emphasized interpreting what we were being given in a problem (input or output value) and what the problem was actually asking us to find (input or output value), before starting the problem.  This helped students from making a lot of careless mistakes.  After we practiced function notation in both directions (evaluating a function, and solving for an input given the function’s output), we mixed up the problems and even threw a few variables and function compositions in there!pictures_page_20.jpg

Day 5:
Recap warm-up on function notation.  Problems 5 and 6 both spurred amazing conversations about order of operations. pictures_Page_21

After doing this recap warm-up, we did my function notation mystery sum activity, which was a blast.  It encourages students to collaborate together and it’s really high engagement each time.

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From there, we continued talking about function notation, but now in terms of a graph.  Interpreting what the function notation was telling us was such a huge part of the previous day’s lesson, that I wanted to see how they could do when we attached a context to the problem. pictures_Page_22

Inside, we worked on graphing functions, and using the graph to find an x-value.  Some students preferred solving for x, but others were impressed by my tracing over on the graph method.  To each their own–that’s the beauty of math, in my opinion. pictures_Page_23

Day 6:
Recap warm-up over function notation with graphs, and then we reviewed for the test. pictures_Page_24

Day 7: Test!

Algebra 1 – Unit 1 INB Pages | The Foundations of Algebra

updateHere’s what went into our INBs for the 1st unit of Algebra 1:pic_Page_01

Day 1:
We glued in a reference sheet for the real number system. Our textbook uses I for the set of irrational numbers.  I went with the same notation this year, but I think I’m going to go with R-Q for next year, since I is used for imaginary numbers, later on.  pic_Page_02

To practice working with these definitions, we did a real number system sort, which I found from Amazing Mathematics! My students enjoyed doing it, and it spawned many great conversations about the difference (however subtle they may be), between the sets of real numbers.

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Real Number System Sort from Amazing Mathematics 

For homework, students did this Always/Sometimes/Never sort, which is also from Amazing Mathematics. They were given about 20 minutes in class to begin their assignment, and then had whatever was left as their take-home assignment for the night.  This one was even better than the last card sort, in terms of spurring student conversations.  Students were justifying with counterexamples and providing fully flushed out reasons for where each card should get placed.  It was awesome!

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Always/Sometimes/Never Sort for Real Numbers from Amazing Mathematics

As a note, we also keep a binder for the class which holds extra handouts, like additional reference sheets and homework assignments that don’t go in the INB. My favorite reference sheet that didn’t go into the INB was this real numbers flowchart that I made.  The day of teaching my lesson on real numbers, I noticed that using the “Venn diagram” approach wasn’t meshing well with some of my students.  That afternoon, I went home and made a flowchart handout that they could refer to, in addition to their INB pages.  Next year, I think I’ll just use this flowcharts in a mini-book format for notes, instead!  I found that students started making more connections about the sets each number belongs to (i.e. not only is a number natural, but it’s a whole number, and an integer, and a rational number), and students were able to remember the questions they need to ask themselves when determining the best classification for a real number.

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Classifying Real Numbers Flowchart from Math by the Mountain

Day 2:
We started off with a recap warm-up on the real number system, which we covered the day before. pic_Page_05

From there, we did a translating expressions sort, also from Amazing Mathematics.  (Can you tell I love her sorts?!).

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Words into Math Sort from Amazing Mathematics

From there, we used our key words and started defining what a variable is, and what an expression is. pic_Page_07pic_Page_08

For homework, students did the following problems.  They had about 15 minutes of class time to get started.  We color-coded “turn-around words” in pink, “parentheses-words” in green, and “equals words” in blue.  Students marked the page in highlighter before beginning to translate the expressions.  They mentioned that this made the process much easier for them! pic_page_09.jpg

Day 3:
We began with a recap warm-up over translating expressions.pic_Page_10

From there, we talked about evaluating expressions and also reviewed the order of operations.
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From there, we discussed the properties of real numbers and students made up their own examples for each property.  pic_Page_12

For in-class practice, students did the a properties of real numbers puzzle from Lisa Davenport.  A student volunteered to glue it into my notebook.  Notice the lack of glue?  Notice the crooked edges?  It was a very sweet offer, but I’m I don’t think it’s one I’ll be taking again any time soon. IMG_1668

Day 4:
We started with a recap warm-up over evaluating expressions and identifying properties of real numbers. pic_Page_14

Next we took notes on combining like terms and the distributive property, cutesy of Sarah at Math Equals Love.pic_Page_15pic_Page_16pic_page_17.jpg

Day 5:
Recap warm-up over distributing and combining like terms. pic_Page_18

What is a solution?  What does it mean to be a solution?  What does it look like? pic_Page_19

Up next, we focused on solving and verifying solutions to 1-step and 2-step equations.  I’ve found that verifying a solution is a skill that students struggle with more than solving (at least in Algebra 1), so I wanted to make sure it got emphasized. pic_Page_20pic_page_21.jpg

Day 6:
We filled out a foldable for solving 2-step equations.  Those pesky fractions are going to be our friends by the end of today!

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Day 7:
Recap warm-up over solving equations. pic_Page_24

Day 8: Review

Day 9: Test!

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Want the full unit? Get it here!

How I Teach Factoring Trinomials

When I teach the unit on polynomials and factoring in Algebra 1, I start off my first lesson on factoring trinomials with a discussion on which has fewer options: multiplying to a number, or adding to the same number?  Students take a couple minutes to list out all pairs of numbers they can think of and then share out to the class.  After doing this twice, quite a few students start catching on to the fact that there’s an infinite amount of ways to add to any given number, but only a handful of ways to multiply to the same number.  Multiplication gives us fewer options, which will allow us to do less work.  This will be really important to what we do in just a moment. (NOTE #1: I provide students with a factor pair chart as an aid to help with identifying factors later on. NOTE #2: We originally began using only whole numbers as a starting point, but students then wanted to branch out further.  Could we extend this question to include integers?! Yes-and we did!)

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From there, we go back to something students have just learned a few sections earlier: multiplying two linear binomials of the form (x+A)(x+B).  We do this a few times and then look at a bunch of already expanded examples and I ask students what they notice.  It doesn’t take long before students start realizing that the middle term, the coefficient of the x, always comes from adding the two numbers A+B, and the end term, the constant, always comes from multiplying the two numbers, AB.

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Then, I switch the question around.  How can we figure out what someone expanded to create a quadratic expression?  Is there any easy way to figure this out?  Students start to volunteer info that they know: the middle term comes from the addition (A) of the two factors, and the constant term comes from the multiplication of these two numbers (M).

So, then the question is, which number do we look at?  The addition number, or the multiplication number? Technically, it doesn’t matter, BUT mathematicians love to be lazy efficient, so we’ll look at the multiplication number.  Students justify looking at the the multiplication number first because, just a few questions prior,  they determined that there’ll be fewer options with multiplication than for addition.   Scan0018

From there, I ask students to make further generalizations and predictions about the signs of the terms and the signs of the factors and use that information to work both forward (expanding) and backward (factoring) using some diamond puzzles.  Scan0019Scan0020

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The next day, we practice some more with basic factoring when a=1, using the patterns we found from the investigation the day before:IMG_1537IMG_1538

Then, we kick it up a notch.  How the heck do we do this factoring thing when there’s more than one x-squared?!  No problem! GCF to the rescue.

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After that, we look at what do we do if a GCF alone isn’t enough to get rid of the a-value, or, even worse, there’s no GCF at all?

This brings us to my FAVORITE part of factoring quadratic trinomials: Slide, Divide, Bottoms Up!  If you are unfamiliar with this method, let me start off by telling you that it’s awesome.  It’s firmly rooted in the same concepts we’ve been using for the last three sections of factoring, and it just makes sense.  Another benefit to the Slide, Divide, Bottoms Up method is that it is efficient.  Doing guess and check (or the box method) can become very frustrating for students when the a-value is larger than, say, 4 or 5.  There’s just too many options and it ends up taking forever, even with a decent intuition about which numbers to test out as factors.  Also, this method even works for special factoring cases like difference of squares!  Students can certainly utilize the factoring shortcut for difference of squares, but, if they forget, Slide, Divide,  Bottoms Up still has their back.

Here’s how Slide, Divide, Bottoms Up works:

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Let’s talk through an example:

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Like all factoring problems, we check if there is a GCF, first.  If we’re lucky, that will remove the a-value and we will be good to do what we normally do.  However, in this example, we weren’t that lucky.  No GCF, so what to do with the 6?  We certainly don’t want more than 1 n-squared, so we’re going to temporarily transfer it to the constant term by multiplication (we “SLIDE” it over).  At this point, we discuss what “temporarily” means.  It means, “only for a while,” so that tells us that, at some point, we’re going to have to undo it. This should be perfectly “legal” because if we do something but then undo it later, that just cancels out to what we started with.  It might also be worth noting that we transfer the a-value through multiplication because we are factoring, which literally means returning an expression back into a product (multiplication) of two factors.

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the a-value of 6 for a moment, we’re left with a standard trinomial that students know how to factor in their sleep with their eyes shut, at this point.  The only thing they have to remember after factoring it is that our factored form is for our temporary expression, not the one we started with.  So, how to undo what we did?

Well, if we multiplied the a-value into the coefficient, it stands to reason that we should do the inverse operation and just divide it back out (DIVIDE)!  Since we’re dividing, make sure to reduce the fractions!

Lastly, we didn’t start out with any fractions.  Actually, we started out with a number that was a coefficient (our a-value of 6).  To get rid of any fraction(s) that we introduced, we bring the denominator(s) back up in front of the variable to be a coefficient, once again (bring the “BOTTOMS UP“).

Here’s some more examples.  Note example 5 where there’s a GCF but we’re still left with an a-value of 4. IMG_1535

Here’s how it works with difference of squares problems. IMG_1536

After using Slide, Divide, Bottoms Up for the past 3 years, I can’t see myself doing factoring any different.  I’m pretty smitten with this method, and, hopefully, it’s easy to see why.

After doing all of the different factoring, I give students one last reference sheet to use in their notebooks, which can be used at any time to refresh their memory on how to solve ANY quadratic trinomial.

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If you are interested in this flowchart, it is available in three different sizes here.

Let me know how you teach factoring quadratic trinomials in the comments below! 

Class Info Stations Activity for Day 1 of Class and Algebra 1 Syllabus

I read a lot of blog posts last week about people’s first day plans, since that was a prompt for one of the #SundayFunday challenges.  I can’t remember who I got the idea from, but someone posted about doing a class syllabus stations activity and my gears started turning.

This year I updated my syllabus a bit. It’s twice the length that is has been in the past (I love nothing more than 1-page documents), but I felt the need to add more information to communicate to parents.  I’m hoping that this syllabus will give parents a better understanding about what their student is doing each day in my class.

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Students will work in groups of 3-ish moving station to station to answer the questions from each station’s card.  I am going to have students record their answers on a scratch paper and, once everyone is done, we will compare answers as a class and see how they did.

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How do you go over expectations, policies, and procedures with your students?  Please share in the comment section below!

Algebra 1 *Solving Equations* Unit Review Stations/Task Cards Activity

My students are finishing up their 3rd unit which is all about solving equations.  The unit includes:

  • Solving 1-step through multi-step equations.
  • Writing equations from applications and then solving
  • Special solution cases (no solution and infinite solutions)
  • Solving Absolute Value Equations
  • Writing absolute value equations from a graph
  • Writing and solving absolute value equations from a scenario
  • Ratios and proportions
  • Solving proportions
  • Percent of change problems (emphesis on working backwards to find original value or final value)
  • Literal equations

To help them review, I’ve made the following set of task cards (to be done at 11 different stations around the room), using problems from a variety of different resources.  I have my students for 2 periods each day, so we should be able to finish in one class.  If you have only one period per day, this might take you 2 periods.  OR you could give students the choice of picking any 2 problems from each station to complete.

I will have students work in groups of 4 and will give them 8 minutes per station.  If they finish early, I have an additional review assignment for them to work on in the meantime. On the back of each card is the final solution, so students can quickly check if their work is on the right track, or not.  If they’re really off and can’t find where they’ve gone wrong, I’ve also provided the fully worked out solutions for each problem at the given station (but that is only to be used if truly needed).

Click HERE to download the stations/task cards activity.

The fonts Riffic and Arcon are used, throughout.  If you plan on editing the Word Document to fit the needs of your own class, you’ll want to download those two free fonts.  Otherwise, the PDF is good to go!

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I have each station paper-clipped together.  Each station contains 4 problems that are placed inside a white half-sheet of paper that contains the fully worked out solutions.  The  white paper with full solutions are there only in case a full group of students truly get stuck. fullsizerender-16

The front of the cards have the question (and problem number).  The back side has just the answer–no hints as to how that answer was reached.  Students can collaborate together to get the right answer, if their answer didn’t initially match.  If they’re really stuck, they are allowed to use the white solutions paper for the station. fullsizerender-17

Here’s an example of the solution paper for Station 8.  It’s nothing fancy, but it does the job.  It’s meant to get a group “unstuck” if they couldn’t figure something out together.  After all, there’s only one of me and 36 of them, so extra help is sometimes good to provide. fullsizerender-18

Here’s a look at all of the questions, from each station (the problems are to be cut apart, and turn into 3″x5″ rectangles).

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Solving Literal Equations “Connect 4” Activity {Student Approved} FREE DOWNLOAD

Recently, I reached out to the MTBoS looking for fun ideas for practicing solving literal equations.  I had searched pretty thoroughly to find any pre-existing activities on the internet, but there wasn’t a lot available.  On top of that, what was there, required way more pre-existing skills (SO MUCH FACTORING!) than my Algebra 1 students currently had a month and a half into the school year.   Unfortunately, the MTBoS and I were pretty stuck. feed

Farther down in this Twitter conversation, however, it was mentioned that someone recently used BetterLesson’s lesson for teaching literal equations.  At that point I had already taught the lesson and most of my students caught onto solving them quite quickly, but I still was looking for a fun way to get a bit more practice in.  While exploring what BetterLesson had, I found this worksheet  that gave me inspiration for a game I could play with my students.  After a little bit of brain-storming, I created what I’m calling a Connect 4 Activity.  Essentially, it’s BINGO, but 4×4 instead of 5×5.

How to play: 

  • Before game: print enough game cards so each student has one, and cut apart the 16 problems.  I fold the problems in half (the problem number to the inside) and put them into a plastic bin.  (When printing from your computer, make sure it says “print double sided, flip on long-edge.”)
  • To start off the game, each student gets a game board, on which they randomly place the numbers 1-16.  Students then pull out a piece of scratch paper, where they will be doing their work.
  • The teacher brings the plastic bin containing the 16 equations around the classroom, letting a student volunteer pick a problem at random. (They LOVE getting to pick!)
  • The teacher then places the problem under the document camera (or writes it on the chalk/white-board if you’re at a low-tech school) for students to solve.
  • After all students have solved the problem, discuss the solution as a class.
  • Once all students are silent, the problem number is revealed for students to cross off on their game card. (The excitement levels usually explode at this point, hence the moments of silence in between.)
  • Repeat for as much class time as you have available, or until all 16 problems have been solved.
  • Each time a student gets 4 in a row, they bring up their card and their work for inspection (they showed their work and corrected any mistakes for each problem), and are allowed to choose a small piece of candy (Jolly Rancher, a Starburst, etc.).

Reasons why I LOVE this game:

  1. It is super easy to set up and is so adaptable for other topics.  This has probably been the lowest prep activity I have made for my students, yet it has been one of the most successful.
  2. Students felt much more confident about their skills and were able to get nearly-instant feedback about how they’re doing.
  3. Students LOVED it. The class begged me to continue letting them play the game through passing time.

Download the game here:2-8-literal-equations-connect-4-activity-page-001connect 4 problem cards for blog post picsconnect 4 problem cards for blog post pics2More Literal Equations Activities:
(Updated September 2017)
This year I wanted to find more ways to practice literal equations with my Algebra 1 students.  We teach literal equations the week before Halloween, so I wanted to make something really fun and “Halloween-y.”  I made a Carving Pumpkins activity that’s self-checking and SUPER fun!  I couldn’t wait to try it out, so I gave it to my Algebra 2 students mid-September (patience never was my virtue) since they review literal equations in their first unit.  Students though it was fun, and they also found it really comforting that it’s self-checking.  To quote a group of boys, “this is super dope, we should do this for all of the holidays!”

Students are given 12 literal equations to solve for a specific variable.  Depending on what their answer was, they “carve” color the corresponding pumpkin in a particular way. In the end, each of the pictures should end up looking the same, as far as the color and carvings go.

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I’ll be making more activities, and will update the post!

Percent of Change Scavenger Hunt Activity {Free Download}

This week in Algebra 1 we covered the topic of percent of change, which is one of the many Algebra 1 topics that is covered in middle school but gets revisited in high school.  The concept of percent of change isn’t too challenging, even when working backwards to find an original or final value, but, geesh, it can be boring.  I looked around online and couldn’t find many activities for this topic, and the ones that I could were really geared toward lower middle school grades, so I decided to make my own version that is great for an 8th-9th grade class.

There are 17 problems that are to be posted, alphabetically, around the room (get creative, though!  can you hide any?).  Students work in pairs, each student getting their own work recording sheet.  Each pair of students also gets a path recording sheet, so they can track the order of problems they’ve gone through.  Students can start at any letter, that way you don’t have 30 students starting at the same place (I normally have a 4 person limit per letter).  Whichever letter a pair of students starts at will be the first letter added to their path recording wheel. They will solve the problem at the bottom, and then look around the room at the tops of the other letters until they find the letter with their answer printed on top.  Then, they go to the new letter, record it on their path recording wheel, and solve the problem at the bottom of the page.  The process repeats until the student makes it back to the letter they began at.

You can download the PDF and editable PowerPoint version of the scavenger hunt here.  You’ll need the fonts Wellfleet and HVD Comic Sans if you want to edit the PowerPoint file.  Otherwise, the PDF is good to go!

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My Favorite Resources #MTBoSBLAUGUST #Made4Math

Over the last year or so, I’ve done a lot of work with very low-end students.  Between teaching summer school for two years straight in the inner city, and teaching support classes in my regular semi-rural school, I’ve really been pushed to find other ways to convey information that work for my students.

One thing that I found is that no matter how small and bite-sized of steps I could break a process down to in our notes, many of my ELL students and students with IEPs for processing disabilities just couldn’t follow along and rework through the steps to get themselves “unstuck” on a problem.  Working toward self-sufficiency is really big for me.  I strongly believe that the purpose for high school is to prepare students to be productive once they enter the “real world,” whatever that means for them (school, workforce, military, etc.).  Being self-sufficient and being able to problem-solve on their own is a big part of being able to reach this point.  So, I kept searching and trying new things until I made my first flowchart graphic organizer.  It was a game changer for my class!

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Students were able to easily follow along.  Using the graphic organizer, they were forced to read and do only one small chunk at a time and they had enough space to do their work right on the flowchart (it’s hard for some students to go back and forth between where the steps are written and where they’re doing a problem on a separate page of paper).  Students were able to use the flowcharts as long as they wanted.  As soon as they felt comfortable enough without it, they stopped using it.  I have also laminated a class set that we used for practice early on.

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I’ve also found that these have been very successful with my older students to jog their memories about a method they haven’t used in a while (such as solving systems by elimination).  For a lot of my seniors, I’m not the only math class that they are taking–many of them are also taking a class called Math Skills that gives them opportunities to take more Work Samples, which are needed for graduation.  Work Samples are an animal of their own and the topics on them can vary widely, so students find themselves needing review on topics that they may have not seen for a couple of years.  I’ve had a lot of these students specifically ask if I had a flowchart for topic _______ that they could look over to remind themselves of the details of how to do ________. 6
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With my younger classes, the first time we learn a method, I have a student working at the document camera as our class’ scribe, and the class (no help from me) discusses their way through the problem.  They determine which path they need to go down (the “yes” path, or the “no” path), and then work in pairs to do that step.  Then, they compare their work for that step as a class, and then move onto the next part of the flowchart and repeat the process.  I love, love, LOVE how student and discussion centered this makes my lessons!  Seriously! LOVE!  It’s almost as if I’m not needed (shh! don’t tell anyone that, because I still want my job).
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From there, we do a few examples that we glue into our INBs, and do some practice with dry-erase pens on the laminated copies of the flowcharts.  I find that starting slow and having them work their way through a problem as a class, without me, helps them remember the ins and outs of the process a bit better, since they had to struggle together as a class.
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Although I don’t have students referring to their notes quite as much as I would like, I have found that they go back to these flowchart examples in their INBs more than anything.  When I ask my students why they like these so much, a lot of what they say comes back to the fact that they have the steps on the paper, and the space to do the work on the paper, and the flowchart really forces them to go one step at a time.  A lot of them know that they have a tendency to rush through steps, and using the flowchart makes that very difficult to do.  Students then self-wean off of the flowcharts at their own pace, which is great in my books!  They are taking accountability for their knowledge.  If they can do their work straight away, they do so.  If they need a bit more help to get through a problem, they don’t just give up–rather, they walk to where I keep extra copies of the flowcharts, grab one, and work through the problem.  This has really helped develop the no opt-out culture in my classroom.  If students want to learn, there are tools to help them learn.  For my classes, the flowchart has been an instrumental tool for their development, both in math skills as well as self-motivation and persistence.

If you like the flowcharts, you can find them at my TPT store!  Today, they are 19% off when you couple your purchase with the 10% discount code OneDay.

Solving Systems of Linear Equations Flowchart BUNDLE 

Solving Multi-Step Equations Flowchart

Thank you so much for reading!

 

Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities Unit Interactive Notebook Pages (Algebra 1)

Here are the notebook pages my students completed on Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities during the last school year.  Let me know if you would like me to post any of the documents I used.  Thoughts or suggestions on how I can improve interactive notebooking?  I started this as my work sample for my MAT degree so I am still very new to the world of INBs/ISNs.  I’m not entirely sold on the Left/Right hand page for in’s and out’s.  I understand the concept behind it, but I also don’t believe in forcing notes to be in a specific format for the sake of being in this format.  Anyway, this was my first take on my “INB” inspired notebook…not fully an Interactive Notebook, but on its way.

4701 4702 4703 4704 4705 4706 4707 4708 4709 4710 4711 4712 4713 4714 4715 4716 4717

5365 5366 5367 5368 5369 5370 5371 5372 5373 5374 5375 5376 5377 5378 5379 5380 5381 5382 5383 5384 5385 5386 5387 5388 5389 5390 5391 5392 5393 5394 5395 5396 5397 5398 5399 5400 5401 5402 5403 5404 5405 5406 5407 5408 5409 5410 5411 5412 5413 5414 5415352355