Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What a mess...

I often find that I have many teaching ideas floating around in my head but I don't often find the time to use them all.  Today I got to use one of them that I've never quite found time for and I was strangely excited about it.  One of my classes entered my room today to find this:

They were not pleased.  They saw it immediately and started asking me WHAT happened in here?  Some kids started to complain how messy other kids are.   I just stood there smiling and told them that they had a do now to do.

This was the do now:

I still told them nothing about what happened to their baskets.  Many of the kids speculated that I just got SOOO angry that I started throwing stuff around.  Then some of them started to think that I did it on purpose and I must have had some reason.  I loved it.  They didn't complain AT ALL about cleaning them though, they just got busy and kept talking and guessing.  None of them guessed correctly though.

Then I put up the table of contents for the day:

13-14 Combining Like Terms

And then I got the ahhhs from most them.  :) One kid just looked at me and nodded approvingly and said, "Ok, I see what you did there."  Did I mention that I love this period?

It wasn't the most ground breaking activity, but I hope that it helped them to make connections.  One thing that I remember learning in college is that we learn by making connections to things we already know about.  So on it's own combining like terms can seem like an abstract thing, but now when I refer to a's and b's as scissors and highlighters  they will hopefully understand what I mean and why they are not the same.

When I look at an expression I am easily able to see which are and are not like terms, but for kids that aren't as math inclined really struggle with seeing this.  So I love being able to relate it to something concrete like crayons and markers.  I think of like terms like this picture:

Although we are all looking at the same thing, many kids just see one thing and no matter how hard they look they can't see the other.  They need us to help see the picture for what it really is.  But what's awesome is once they see it, it finally all makes sense.  

After we simplified the expression and ended up with 2a - 4b + 10 I picked up a basket and asked why they stopped when it looked like that.  Why didn't they "keep going" and then put the highlighters in with the scissors and then put it all in with the calculators?  They thought I was being silly and told me that I was just making it worse by doing this.  This is exactly what I want them to see with expressions- it's silly to combine 2a and -4b because they're just not the same.

And for some strange reason I really just enjoyed walking around the room making a mess of all their stuff.  I seriously couldn't wait for them to get there to see their reaction.


  1. I love this activity! Thanks for sharing once again.

  2. That is so awesome. I am sharing it with my math teachers at school... :)

  3. Thanks Sarah. This idea is fantastic and I cant wait to use it next year!


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