This week I was introduced to algeblocks. Algeblocks are a visual representation of integers, polynomials, and unknown variables. It is an effective way to teach algebra to really bright students and students who struggle. The main purposes of these blocks are to help students physically see the problem they are trying to solve and to manipulate the answer with their hands.
Algeblocks come in three different colors: orange, yellow, and green. Each color represents a different quantity and is placed on a special mat. The mat used with algeblocks is a plain piece of paper split in half with one side being positive and the other negative. Then when you have an equation you must set the right number of blocks on the side of the mat it belongs. So if you are solving -2+1, you would want to stick two blocks on the negative side of the mat and one block on the positive side. Then you will need to use a technique called “making zero” to attain your answer. To “make zero” you must pair blocks from both sides of the mat together to cancel each other out. When you can’t pair any more blocks together then you are done. The video below is a great example of how to use algeblocks since it is understood best when viewed.
I think algeblocks are a brilliant idea. When I was a student first learning algebra, I always had problems with understanding equations. I think if I would have had blocks to manipulate the answers I would have had a better understanding about unknown variables. This method is especially effective for students who are struggling in math because they can physically see where they are messing up if they get the wrong answer. I do believe this method should be taught during early algebra years, so students are familiar with algeblocks all throughout school.
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