Thursday, July 26, 2012

Algebraic Smoothies

Teaching a seventh grade level math course can be fun, but also have it's challenges - especially when teaching sixth graders who may not be ready for some of the algebraic content that we introduce at the end of the year. One of my favorite concepts though is that of Combining Like Terms.

It really sets the stage for their algebraic future and their understanding in solving more complete equations. But getting the students to really understand what you are doing with different letters can be frustrating...So we make algebraic smoothies and learn about combining like terms and have a delicious treat at the end!!!

*Remember to check with your students for any allergies before conducting this math lab
  • Blender
  • Three types of fruit (I brough frozen strawberries, bananas and frozen blueberries)
  • Orange Juice
  • 8 oz. cups (enough for each student)
  • Spatula or spoon
  • Paper Towels
  1. Have your students bring their notebook and a pencil down to the school kitchen and if you're able to be fore class, set-up all the materials. We have a nice stainless steel island in ours, so I had my students stand around with me and the blender at one end.
  2. Take out some of the fruit. I took out bananas and strawberries.
  3. Tell your students: "The Strawberries represent "x" and the Bananas represent "y"'
  4. Lay out like the picture below and tell them that we have "3 strawberries, 2 bananas, 2 more strawberries, and 1 more banana, which are 3x, 2y, 2x and 1y", right?

  1.  If I add them together, will I get 8 banana-berries? 8xy? NO!!!! We still have strawberries and bananas. we have 5 strawberries and 3 bananas.... 5x + 3y
  2. Conduct a few more examples to check for student understanding. Have students do these examples in their notebook. Feel free to use all the different fruits you brought and don't be afraid to challenge your students!
  3. After students have grasped the addition, introduce muiltiplication by saying "what if we want to multiply our terms?" This is where the blender comes in.
  4. Pour in about 1 cup of OJ. Add about 10 strawberries. Ask students to tell you what you added. They should reply with "10x" Add about 2 bananas. Ask students to tell you what this represents. this is "2y". As you blend (or before, depending on how loud your blender is) ask students to notice what happens when you blend together. Can you tell where strawberries and bananas are anymore? They are mixed together! This represemts multiplication of terms and our answer would be "20xy".
  5. Repeat with other fruit making additional examples.
  6. When you go back to the classroom to reinforce, be sure to do a few examples without the visual cues to check for understanding.
Happy Algebra Learning and I hope your students enjoy this as much as mine do!!! I know they look forward to it from the first day of school! :)

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