Today we did “Hot Potato”, “Find the Error” and “Create a Problem” in my algebra 1 morning class (an extra help class) and my algebra 1 class. (These are all strategies from the College Preparatory Mathematics program I’ve started using with my 7th grade Honors pre-algebra classes.) I’m trying to do more engaging activities that have the students doing the work, rather than just giving them a bunch of problems to do!

Hot Potato – I wrote a problem on an index card. Actually I wrote out 2 sets of 4 different problems to work with my tables of 4. So I made problems 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A and 1B, 2B, 3B, 4B. I made several copies so each table would have either problems A or B. The instructions: When I say go, each student takes one of the index cards and does the first step in solving the inequality. JUST the FIRST step! Then they pass it to the next person, and take the index card another person is passing to them. The student looks at the new problem and the first step and (after making sure it is correct) writes the next step, then passes this index card on. This continues – one step and pass it on – until the problem is finished and the last person graphs the problem. Below are some index cards – perhaps you can tell there are different writings on them? We did have a few issues – students doing the entire problem and not passing on the card because they started before I said go, students not making a correction and just going with the previous line, but overall I think it went pretty well. When they had finished I had each table tell me the solution to one of the problems and the other groups agreed or disagreed, which is how I found some students hadn’t made corrections! But they did correct them after seeing the right answer, so it worked out.

Find the Error – I “solved” 2 compound inequalities, making several errors in the process, and graphed my solution. I should have graphed them wrong too – next time I’ll do something wrong there as well! Anyhow, the students had to identify what I did wrong and solve it correctly and graph it correctly. I called on different students to tell me one error at a time. I think it helped the students find different errors, and analyze work. Some just found one error and moved on to the next problems, so hopefully they will look more carefully next time.

Create a Problem – for this activity I gave the students the “solution” to a problem and asked them to create a problem that would have this solution. The solution was -2 < x < 3. The first step was to just add something to x. So we did it together and got 0 < x + 2 < 5. Then one pair suggested -4 < 2x < 6. From there I asked the pairs to come up with 2 step equations and these were some they created: -16 < 2x – 12 <-6; -10 < 4x – 2 < 10; -8 < 2x + 2 < 6. The last one doesn’t work! We found this because I was having the students solve them as I wrote down what a pair told me (ok, some were solving them with me, some weren’t I’m sure!). But this had the pair revise their problem to get one that worked! I think it worked pretty well.

All in all, I’d do all three activities again. And I definitely want to do the Hot Potato again. A suggestion CPM math has for Hot Potato is to have the students all use a different colored pen so you can see who wrote what. I think this would help them see they are just supposed to be writing one line!

Wow! These are really great strategies. I wish my teachers had used them – it makes algebra so much more interesting than just slogging through. I’m very impressed with what you are doing!

Thanks for passing these posts on to me.

Love, Mom