Algebra Equation Models
Algebra can be very abstract for young students, but teaching with Algebra equation models makes it easy to learn. Students love learning Algebra this way and feel very smart when they can solve difficult problems using concrete models in math class.
Students in my classes have learned to solve algebra equations using “Hands On Equations” by Borenson and Associates for several years. This method teaches kids to move pieces that represent unknowns. By adding or subtracting pieces from both sides, kids learn the basics of algebra. It makes those long Algebra equations seem real. All of a sudden, students can see how Algebra works in a very concrete way with these fabulous models. This system is self-pacing too as students move through the equations at their own rate. I teach the new concepts as they are ready and I trust them to check their own work before progressing to the next lesson.
This year I found SolveMe, an online game that teaches students to solve Algebra equations. SolveMe presents Algebra problems in the form of mobiles for students to find the unknowns. Like “Hands On Equations,” it presents sequences of problems that start simple and progress to extremely complex. After the students master the style of these problems, they move at their own pace through the problems. One of the best things about SolveMe is that the program provides immediate feedback. If the student’s answer is not correct, it shows that the mobile is not balanced and the student tries again. Since it is more difficult for me to monitor this work, I asked my students to take a screen shot (on the iPad) of their last problem and save that for me to check.
Both of these strategies use concrete models to solve Algebra equations. They both differentiate learning very well as kids can move through the lessons at their own pace. Students love these strategies and engage in the problem solving involved in solving these equations. My students understand Algebra in a new way after using these concrete models.
What resources do you use to help your students understand difficult concepts? Please share!