## FREE GAME for Learning Algebraic Expressions in Guided Math

I don’t remember Algebra being fun in school. I don’t remember any hands-on experiences for anything in Algebra–including expressions. So, when I began teaching Algebra I was determined to make it concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract and, above all else, it was going to be FUN!

One of the ways I do this is by incorporating roaches, flies, and ladybugs into my Algebra guided math lessons and into my Tabor Rotation math stations. One of the Manipulative Station Activities is Excellent Expressions.

This activity uses cards to determine an algebraic expression, but makes creating and simiplifying the expressions a lot more interesting because the manipulatives are BUGS.

## How to Play Excellent Expressions

Excellent Expressions is best played in teams and with partners. The manipulatives needed for this activity are ladybug buttons, plastic roaches, plastic flies, 2-color counters, and tablecloth napkins. Use ziploc bags with sliders to save time taking out and putting back items. Jumbo hefty bags are ideal for keeping the entire game together.

The sets of ladybugs should have 6 of a light color and 6 of a darker color. A small bag of two-color counters will represent the constants that may be pulled. I made the negative roaches and flies by painting a red stripe down their back.

Everyone lays out their picnic table/work mat and their piles of negative and positive insects. Two sets of partners each pull two term cards and place them in the center. All pairs race to see who can be first to create the expression using insects.

After creating the insect expression, students record the terms pulled, the expression created, and they combine like terms to simplify the expression.

Students record how they used the positive and negative insects to concretely experience the additive inverse property used in simplifying their expression. There’s also a place to write an equivalent expression using distributive or associative properties.

## Differentiating the Understanding of Expressions

If you’re looking for an activity that differentiates instruction and engages students, Excellent Expressions is perfect! Students are using manipulatives to concretely experience creating and simplifying expressions. The students are creating their own paper and pencil tasks by pulling the cards and recording the expressions. The understanding of expressions is moving from the concrete (insects) to the pictorial (drawing on the recording sheet) to the abstract (writing the simplified expression and then finding an equivalent expression if possible).

A How to Play Excellent Expressions video is on the GlennaTabor YouTube Channel. Download Excellent Expressions, Insects  and use it in your Tabor Rotation Math Stations, your guided math station, or with your entire class. Every secondary student who’s used the insects has loved learning algebra! The response of your class will be priceless! (There are more FREE activities in the FREE materials section of my website. Just join the Tabor Team–it’s FREE, too!)

## The STEM/Real-World Connection of Expressions

Have you ever heard someone say, “When am I ever going to use Algebra in the real world?” Well, since the students created expressions using insects, let’s make the science and technology connection to what they created. Give the students the facts about ants and roaches. Then ask your students to determine which of expressions they created, playing Excellent Expressions, represents the most weight that could be carried.

If you want a good STEM connection to algebraic expressions created with roaches, take a look at the studies being conducted at Texas A & M with roaches that carry backpacks.

Yes, mechanical engineers and entomologists are working together to outfit 2-inch long cockroaches with tiny backpacks. Why? Roaches can have cam can move through buildings destroyed in an earthquake to help find survivors.The NPR article, “What Cockroaches with Backpacks Can Do-Ah-mazing,” is a good read and the videos of cockroaches with backpacks is worth the click.

## More Useful Links and Tools

If your students need more practice with integers, the 24 Game Integer Version is an excellent tool. My students had to learn the integer rules to become faster at finding the ways to make a positive or negative 24.

George Alland’s article, “Algebra Teaching Tips,” in EducationWorld has some concrete ways to help students learn how to combine like terms in expressions.

HowtoLearn.com features a really helpful article on “Best Algebra Help Tips.” This article shares ideas for understanding expressions and many more algebraic concepts.

Keep a bag of “insects” handy. I travel with a bag of algebra manipulatives (including plastic roaches) in my carry-on bag. That way, when someone next to me on an airplane says, “I never really understood algebra,” I can whip out my roaches and begin to help them concretely understand why algebra is important.

The last time I shared with someone next to me it was an air marshal. We both survived the flight and he thought the roaches were awesome (and just a little creepy).

## Integers in Math Stations

### Integer: a number with no fractional part; includes the counting numbers {1, 2, 3, …}, zero {0}, and the negative of the counting numbers {-1, -2, -3, …}

The term integer is not typically used in a secondary student’s everyday life. There’s no shortened version for texting it. Why? Let’s face it, secondary students use integers in math and science and then forget about them. Or, so they think. They actually use integers all the time and will need working knowledge of them for the rest of their life!
I like the real-world examples on VirtualNerd.Com. I’d recommend their video, too. It gives a simple, but effective explanation of integers.

• 30º drop in temperature -30
• \$450 deposit into an account +450
• A weight loss of 5 kilograms -5

As students study integers, we can make them aware of integer terms they use every day.

Negative: decrease, fall, drop, loss/less

## Engaging Students with Integers

We can also help build a deeper understanding of integers by using activities such as Integer Cram in our math stations or in guided math instruction.

Entire game is FREE on FREE MATERIALS page! Just join the Tabor Team. (Joining is FREE, too)

This game has pairs of students take turns rolling two white or yellow number generators and one red number generator.

Best way to roll dice

After rolling, all pairs of students represent what was rolled using 2-color counters. I recommend that students use a felt mat to define their space and muffle the noise.

All the pairs record the steps they used to combine the integers and determine the number of spaces they may move. As you can see on the Integer Cram Recording Sheet below. This activity personalizes the math instruction by giving the students a chance to create their own problems to solve.

The pair that rolled moves their game piece the combined total number of spaces–if they can explain how they arrived at their answer and everyone agrees. This encourages the math conversation and discourse–which leads to a deeper understanding since their thinking was verbalized.

Play continues with the next pair of students.

Game pieces make it more fun & personalized

## Integer Cram does it all!

This engaging, interactive activity/game takes the understanding of integers from concrete (2-color counters) to pictorial (drawing the counters and the dice on the recording sheet) to abstract (writing the number sentence used to combine the integers rolled). You can place it in a math station (used in Phase 2 of the Tabor Rotation Framework), use it in guided math, or play the game with your entire class divided into teams.

## Integer Cram Video on YouTube

A “How to Play Integer Cram” video is on my YouTube Channel. (There are just a few videos now, but be sure and subscribe to my channel. We’re working every week to add a video for each of the FREE activities in my FREE RESOURCES section of my website at both the elementary and secondary level.)

The Integer Cram video teaches your students how to play the game

This blog post is going to end on a positive note,

“Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.”     William Paul Thurston

And, a couple of funny ones…

After sharing the Tabor Rotation Framework at the 2016 SCCTM Conference,  I wanted to encourage the passionate educators in South Carolina as they continue on their journey of highly effective and personalized instruction using Tabor Rotation.

Team Roles: Positive interdependence is a vital part of any group working effectively together. All members of the team need to feel that they are contributing to the success of the team by having a specific role on the team. This team-role-description sheet has a examples and descriptions of possible roles. These tabor-rotation-team-roles are leader, co-leader, timekeeper, materials manager, and reporter. Some teachers and schools have two Materials Managers, a Positive Generator, or a Whisper Monitor.

Exit Questions: Exit Questions are one way in which teachers may hold students accountable for the information they have learned. Exit questions help students summarize the activity or game. A teacher may also use them for formative assessment and as a tool to assist in Clipboard Cruising. Student responses to exit questions can also provide additional information when the teacher is forming Readiness Groups. A simple-passport can also assess the level of student understanding of a concept and the effectiveness of a station activity.

Clipboard Cruising and On-Going Assessment: Clipboard Cruising is an essential component of Tabor Rotation because it encourages teachers to be constant observers.  Clipboard Cruising is noting certain behaviors or understandings on a clipboard, or on the tabor-rotation-clipboard-cruising sheet. Cruising occurs as one moves throughout a class period or day, instructs in whole group, and works with students in Teacher Time and in Teacher-Guided Readiness Groups. It is important that the teacher be continually monitoring the progress of each student so they can make an informed plan for moving the students a little bit further than they were the day before.

My hope is that, like so many other educators I’ve helped over the years, you take this framework, incorporate the unique standards and requirements of your state or district, and create a simple-to-follow plan of true differentiated instruction which moves every student ahead, every day.

Your children, my children, and our students deserve nothing less!

## 4 Attention Levels for Classroom Management & FREE Poster!

ATTENTION LEVEL 3

How do you manage a classroom?

How do you run stations or small groups?

How do you get students to pay attention for longer than two minutes?

All of these questions have been asked repeatedly by those who work with any level and any subject. I am frequently asked these questions in training and debriefing sessions since I specialize in small-group instruction in the classroom.

After modeling with a class I’ve just met right before the modeling lesson began, I’m often asked this question,

“How did you “get” control of the classroom so quickly?”

One of the key things I do is establish some type of specific routine that takes a total physical response to complete. I have used it for several decades now, with elementary, middle, junior, and high schools and had 100% success.

It’s called Attention Levels. I get a chair and a desk of my own in the classroom and I model the way each level looks, then I ask the students to model it back for me. After modeling each level, I hold up 1-4 fingers at a time and ask them to model the Attention Level that matches the number.

While I’m modeling the Attention Levels I share some personal story with the students. It’s usually funny and makes them laugh. This is my way of making myself “vulnerable” to the class by being willing to share something personal with them.

I give specific positive verbal praise of their appropriate levels. This public  acknowledgement of appropriate behavior goes a long way and contributes to the positive peer pressure that is now surrounding each student. It’s also a way to MODEL-PRACTICE-REWARD to ensure that good habits are formed.

Within 5 minutes, the class is now a community of learners with me facilitating the learning.

After a recent request from some secondary schools, I asked amazing graphic designer, Jessica Henon Vaughn, to add illustrations for the Attention Level descriptions. Download your FREE Poster-Ready Copy of attention-levels-for-learning and begin using it today. It WORKS!

## Tabor Rotation Training is Transformational!

The last two Tabor Rotation training sessions for the 2015-16 school year were full of excitement, enthusiasm, and receptivity. The days were amazingly positive, but what happened after the training was even more impressive. With just a few weeks left in the school year, participants went back to their classrooms and immediately began to use the strategies they learned. Here is what happened in one classroom…

…Recently, my team and I had the privilege of attending Glenna Tabor’s Math Training Seminar. From the moment we walked in, it had a completely different feel from any other professional development opportunity we’ve ever had. Glenna greeted each of us with a warm smile and she showed genuine joy in what she was about to share with us. Her delivery was focused, hands-on, and entertaining! Throughout the day, Glenna shared the ideas behind how her framework was developed, as well as data to prove that it works! Her belief in the system is contagious and I left that day ready to dive right in!

Not only did we get to enjoy a full-day of training, but we were also lucky enough to have Glenna come to our school that Monday to model Tabor Rotation in an actual classroom. This is the piece of the puzzle that so many trainings lack…the “show me” piece. It was great to see how the tips and strategies could be so easily implemented! And the students were engaged from the moment she began until the lesson was complete. I was convinced! Tabor Rotations were going to happen in my classroom. Now, this was all happening with only 8 days left in the school year! That is how easy it was to get started.

The next day, I organized my students into teams, explained how the rotations would work, and we were on our way! With the games Glenna had taught us, as well as the management strategies she used, it was an easy transition from my previous method of small group/center instruction. And my kids absolutely loved it!

They got to work in teams, with partners, in heterogeneous groups, and readiness groups. I was able to complete one full week of rotations before the school year ended and I cannot wait to fully implement Tabor Rotations next year! Will it take some work and preparation over the summer? Yes. But Glenna gave us everything we needed to get us on our way. Planning guides, templates, data collection tools, everything.

If you are looking for a way to better engage your students, as well as increase student growth and achievement, I highly recommend investing in Tabor Rotation training!     – J. Waller, Teacher, Fulton County Schools

After implementing the Tabor Rotation Framework, transformation was immediate and quite powerful. Here is what one administrator observed…

…We just completed another round of training and I am sitting in a Kinder class excited beyond words. Next year we will be fully implementing Tabor Rotation in every grade level and I know this will make a huge difference for our students. The difference extends far beyond math. I expect we will take the [Tabor Team] roles we learn into our Project Based Learning and reading centers as well. I am very excited about the possibilities this has for our work.

I love the roles students are taking on, the manipulatives that I am seeing in stations, the conversations, and the independence in so many students who started the year speaking no English. For all of this, I thank you for what you have brought to the teaching profession, to me, my school and my students.-  A. Holcombe, Administrator, Fulton County Schools

I’m so proud of all of the educators I have worked with this school year and the astounding results they have seen. Can’t wait till the next round of Tabor Rotation Institutes–all of Duncanville ISD schools in July and a room full of open-minded, dedicated educators in Houston, August 6! There’s room for you in August…

## The Extreme Value of Teacher-Guided Math/Teacher Time

In a recent conversation, dynamic math instructional coach, Chrystena Talamantez, shared the overwhelmingly positive response her teachers had to additional support in guided, small-group work with students at the Teacher Time Station. Since having this station was the primary reason why I created the Tabor Rotation Framework, I asked Chrystena to share her personal testimony to the extreme value of Teacher-Guided Math Instruction/Teacher Time.

“Time and time again, when asked which part of Tabor Rotations is their favorite, students say, “Teacher Time!” Teacher Time is the math station at which the teacher works with ¼ of her class on the most difficult concepts of the unit of study. Rotation to Four Stations is one of the Essential Elements of Tabor Rotation Framework and it is one of the most valuable opportunities a teacher has to instruct his students.

In a recent PLC, a 2nd grade teacher on my campus said the recent professional development where Teacher Time was modeled was “life changing”.  With so much to teach, teachers see the benefit of Teacher Time as it incorporates so many important mathematical concepts into one lesson. After attending the Master Tabor Leader Institute with Glenna Tabor and watching her demonstrate Teacher Time, I knew if there was one area to focus on fine- tuning on my campus, Teacher Time was it!  It was clear the impact it could have on students would be extremely powerful!

Here’s why Teacher Time is so powerful:

• Follows the problem-solving process in learning mathematical concepts.
• Moves through the CRA progression in order to build conceptual understanding, representational understanding, and abstract understanding.
• Makes the math come alive for kids.
• Utilizes questions in a state-tested format such as STAAR.
• Provides an opportunity to teach the hardest concepts to one small heterogeneous group at a time.
• Allows for immediate support as needed so all students master the concept.
• Students are able to learn from one another.
• Builds critical thinking through the use of cognitively-guided instruction.
• Helps build relationships with your students.
• It makes learning fun!

Many times our students may seem to do well in class, but then on a District Curriculum Assessment or the yearly state test [in Texas it’s called STAAR], they don’t master the concept.  Teacher Time’s use of state test type questions provides the opportunity to practice concepts at the level of thinking and rigor that is necessary for mastery of the standards and in turn, the yearly state test. Let’s continue our work to help students truly master the art of problem solving and realizing that math is not just memorizing facts and formulas! As teachers, it can give us the time and the tools to help all of our kids succeed. Teacher time may just be “life changing” for your students and for you!”

#### “You are only as good as your coach thinks you are.”     –Brian Williams

The teachers and students at Farrell Elementary in Arlington ISD must be AMAZING, INTELLIGENT, and DYNAMIC, because Ms. Talamantez knows you are and is making sure you know it, too! Thank you, Chrystena, for inspiring all of us!

## Algebra Interactive Notebook Ideas & FREE Foldables

This quote makes me laugh. I’ve never bought 64 watermelons and wondered how much it cost if I gave the farmer \$200 and had \$7 left. In fact, I don’t like watermelons, so I would never even buy one. (What in the world would I do with 64 of them???)

As I search for ways to engage students in secondary math and to make the concepts meaningful, I continue to add ideas to their interactive notebooks. The students like them, they use them, and they interest them. However, every time I use a search engine to find a foldable for a secondary concept it sends me to a E-Commerce website and they want \$3-5 for the idea.

This blog is about giving you access to the Secondary Interactive Notebook Ideas and the foldables incredible teachers share with everyone—absolutely free!

I keep my Interactive Notebook with me at the Teacher Time Station. This is the station where I teach the most difficult concepts to no more than ¼ of my class at a time. If you’re just beginning to use Interactive Notebooks, here are pictures of the items I keep in interactive notebook tool bag. I also keep a box of these supplies at the Teacher Time table for my students to use.

A pencil bag holds all your Interactive Notebook supplies.

A variety of fine-line markers, a few gel pens, and a couple of thicker markers help your students see the components more easily.

Colored pencils are a must. These twistable ones are the bomb!

No INB supply bag is complete without scissors (I like to have pinking shear, too), a glue stick, liquid glue (because some items just won’t hold using a glue stick), and a really good polymer eraser.

A supply of colorful paper in pastels and brights will “catch” your students’ attention

I am a teacher’s teacher and work with all levels K-12. This means my Teacher Time Station Interactive Notebook is at a variety of levels. One student recently commented that I had order of operations on one page and the next page I was finding the greatest common factor in really long polynomials. He told me, “That’s a pretty big jump!”  When I used algebra tiles to help him understand polynomials and then showed him the foldable, he got it. Not such a big jump from PEMDAS to factoring polynomials if you have the right tools to help you understand!

Here are some recent additions to my Interactive Notebook and the links to them.

Exponent Rule Poof Book

http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2013/10/ms-hagans-book-of-exponent-rules.html

If you’ve never made a Poof Book, this video is short, sweet, and simple to follow.

http://www.vickiblackwell.com/makingbooks/poofbook.htm

Solving Equations Foldable

https://instillnessthedancing.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/solving-equation-foldable.pdf

Slope Foldable

Factoring the GCF of a Polynomial Notes Page

https://app.box.com/s/s4wzrfun2x6cx15umf00mdar7zkswdbi/1/4814662213/39086233709/1

Treasure Chest of Middle School Foldables

http://www.aldenschools.org/webpages/hstotz/resources.cfm

Vocabulary of Expressions Foldables

http://a-sea-of-math.blogspot.com/2013/07/variable-facotrs-terms-oh-my.html

Algebra Expressions Foldable

http://equationfreak.blogspot.com/2014/08/algebraic-expression-foldable.html

https://www.dropbox.com/s/5rxphkk54m00qwz/Algebraic%20Expression%20foldable.pdf

Algebraic Expressions Practice

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y7xjlimvexyl9qc/Writing%20algebraic%20expressions%20practice.pdf

Solving Equations/EOC Review

https://app.box.com/s/mqixo92a8p4tdomrj2hr

Solving Equations Flipbook Foldable

http://fromamathclass.blogspot.com/2012/08/i-isns-part-2-foldables-i-hope-to.html

How to Make a Flipbook Video

Thank you to the following bloggers and teachers who are sharing such incredible ideas:

Sarah Hagan: Math Equals Love; Beth Ferguson: In Stillness the Dancing; Vicki Blackwell: Making Books; Chris: A Sea of Math; Jan Lichtenberger: Equation Freak; James Tanton: Quadratic Pamphlet.

One of my students wore this shirt to Algebra class. Thanks to the teachers featured in this blog and the teachers who will take their ideas and use them, students may really want to find x!

## Supporting Guided Math Using Tabor Rotation

### How do I share my enthusiasm and expertise in an effective way?

These questions are asked quite frequently by teacher leaders, math coaches, administrators, and specialist who want to build the grass-roots movement of Tabor Rotation.  These questions were also the catalyst for the creation of the Master Tabor Leader Institute: Igniting the Fire to Inspire.

A month later I met with the Master Tabor Leaders from one school. I was so impressed with the initiatives they began in their school and asked them to share their story.

### A teacher’s perspective:

I am Kindergarten teacher in a large school district in Houston, Texas. Tabor Rotations Framework has been a part of my teaching for the past two years. I fell in love with Tabor Rotation the moment I heard about the framework in January, 2014. However, I did not fully implement everything until the following school year 2014-2015 and that’s when I began to see the powerful impact that small-group, guided instruction and math stations via Tabor Rotation.

My school was lucky enough to have Glenna Tabor mentor our school through the steps and procedures on how the 14 Essential Elements and 3 Phases of Tabor Rotation worked. She not only taught us about the framework and modeled the framework, but she fueled our fire for the framework. My students soared with their math concepts (over 90% passing), learned a variety of ways to complete problems, and became better prepared to think about the world. In fact, you can walk into my classroom right now during Tabor and my students will explain their roles, jobs, and the stations where they are currently working. Some doubt if this type of small-group, guided math works at the kindergarten level, but my students prove every day that it IS possible!

I am currently a presenter/host for “Tabor Check-Ins” at our school. Two of our school’s staff attended the Master Tabor Leader Institute in October, 2015. The Master Tabor Leader Institute is a full-day training of trainers in how to motivate, educate, inspire, and lead others in their school and district in the use of effective math instruction using Tabor Rotation.

The Tabor Check-Ins are designed to help teachers who just began or want to learn more about the framework to fully understand each essential element, how it all works, answer any questions, help with stations, and so much more. The Math Instructional Coach for our school and I have put together different meetings over some of the Essential Elements of Tabor Rotation such as Leadership Academy, Team Roles, and the Teacher Time Station.

During the “Tabor Check-Ins” we show, step-by-step how the element works and we demonstrate what it looks like. We also have a discussion about how teachers can use it in a variety of classrooms and at different levels. We have so much more planned to keep our teachers fired up and implementing Tabor successfully. In just a couple of meetings, I have seen teachers’ light bulbs going off and becoming brighter. I hope to keep this momentum going and deepen the teachers’ understanding and implementation of effective strategies throughout the year via this support tool.

Even though I have a full understanding of Tabor, I am always learning and perfecting the Essential Elements. I have gotten the awesome chance to work with Glenna Tabor side by side and grow with Tabor Rotations. She is my motivation and I strive to use that motivation to pass along to my teachers and students.

Like I tell all my teachers at my school, do not ever give up, Tabor works in many ways besides just Math. My students from both years learned how communities work by using the team roles as well as asking questions to get a full understanding. Tabor has changed me in so many ways. I hope it changes you just as much as it has for my students and my teachers.

### A principal’s perspective:

Tabor Rotation has allowed our teachers to instruct using a mini- lesson format with the entire class along with math workstations that promote leadership skills, student engagement and rigorous thinking.  While at the math stations, teachers are able to work with small groups of students targeting ALL levels in the classroom.  As an administrator, I always enjoy entering the classrooms during Tabor Rotation.  Students are engaged in different learning activities as groups, allowing teachers the time they need to work with ¼ of the class at the Teacher Time Station.

Phase 2 of Tabor Rotation—Rotation to the Stations gives me amazing opportunities to talk to groups of students to see what they are learning that day.  It is a great way to assess whether students understand what they are learning that week.  The Tabor Rotation Framework also provides a structure for our newer teachers to follow.  Most importantly, when they use Tabor Rotation, teachers are able to focus on the strengths and areas of growth of the students in the classroom.

Having two Master Tabor Leaders on campus has been such an asset!  They are able to work with their colleagues by giving ideas and being a soundboard for fellow teachers in the classroom.  They have both led “Tabor Check-Ins” that help our teachers stay focused on their goals for Math.  The Master Tabor Leaders also observe the implementation of Tabor Rotation. They are always positive and give feedback in a non-threatening, supportive way.  I look forward to building our Math community while continuing to use the Tabor Rotation Framework.

## Getting Started with Algebra Math Stations

### Are you an Algebra teacher who is wanting to begin using math stations, small groups, and guided instruction with your classes?

If you are, then I’m already impressed and the students you have this year will be, too!

Here are a few basic tips for implementing guided math instruction in a secondary classroom:

1. Study your next unit of instruction and give your students a pre-assessment of these concepts. Based on the pre-assessment results and other data, identify the most difficult concepts of the unit. List the reasons why they are most difficult for the students. These are the concepts you will emphasize in teacher-guided small groups and in stations.

2. Look at your scope and sequence. How many blocks or days of instruction do you have to teach the unit? How much time is needed for building the basics of the unit? Plot this into a skeleton long-range planning guide for the unit. This Sample Tabor Rotation, Block Schedule for Algebra I is for the unit on relationships between quantities and expressions.

In the Tabor Rotation Framework this Phase is called Phase 1: Setting the stage. In a secondary class, Phase 1 may be 1-6 blocks long depending on the level of difficulty of the concepts. However, teacher-guided small groups will occur during this time to provide the best venue for students learning and mastering concepts.

3. Plan for math stations. This is Phase 2 of the Tabor Rotation Framework–Varying the Modalities in which students learn. What concepts really need to have manipulatives and concrete experience for students to truly understand the concept? An activity for this concept will go in the Manipulatives Station. An example of this is Poly Pull, MCC9-12.A.APR.1.

What concepts could be practiced and mastered by playing a game? Algebra Bingo, MCC9-12.A.SSE.1a is wonderful game to play when beginning the Algebra unit on expressions.

What concept would be best taught by you to approximately 1/4 of the class at a time? This is the content for the Teacher Time Station when you guide students in learning that most difficult concept. The use of building blocks are great manipulatives to use for Teacher Time, Interpret Expressions, MCC.A.SSE.1.

Are there any concepts that the students need to review? These would go into the Technology/Application Station. An application activity such as Operationally Speaking, MCC9-12.A.SSE.1 is a great way for students to practice the language of operations they will encounter in word problems.

3. Identify any other unit concepts that would be better taught to a small group instead of the whole group. Plan for teacher-guided small groups to occur during a block of instruction. Schedule a teacher-guided session with all levels of students. The ones who have shown mastery of the concept will be met with for a shorter amount of time and their knowledge refined and extended. The approaching-level students will have 5-10 minutes of instruction depending on their needs and their attention spans.

4. Create choice boards for the rest of the class to use while you are teaching guided groups. My blog, What is the Rest of the Class Doing? is a wonderful source for creating these differentiated and engaging tools. There are attachments, links, and lots of resources.

5. Obtain basic games that can be placed in stations and used in choice boards. The 24 Game comes in the Algebra, Integers, and Variable versions to challenge your Algebra students. I also use the 24 Game single and double digit to provide practice in basic facts.

Albert’s Insomnia is  another tool for composition of numbers and practice of basic facts.

I would also make sure I had the board game Equate in my classroom. It is played like Scrabble and engages the players in the creation of equations and expressions.

6. As you begin, think about why your are doing this and what your ultimate goal is for your students. Create some type of assessment tool to check for understanding and to provide for individual accountability. Passports are an excellent way to document student understanding. LEGO Logic Passport is a great example of this type of tool.

You can engage Algebra students by simply letting them illustrate problems with LEGO people. They LOVE it!!!

I hope this list provides you with a healthy beginning on your journey. By implementing teacher-guided instruction in your Algebra classroom, you are giving students more of the most valuable asset they can ever have–YOU!

## Powerful Math Stations, MCC4.NBT.2 & MCC4.OA.4

What makes a powerful, rigorous, and relevant math station activity?

1. Identify the content standard.

One of the activities that uses building blocks to concretely explore a concept is the Math Common Core State Standard from fourth grade, MCC4.OA.1a: Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.

2. Research the way in which the standard will be assessed during high-stakes district and state testing.

Here is a sample of a word problem that assesses a student’s understanding of MCC4.OA.1.

Chris can go four miles on his bike. Jill can go seven times faster on her electric scooter. How fast can Jill go on her motorcycle? Which one would you rather ride and why?

I added the last question to provide a student with a connection to the problem and to raise the level of thinking about the problem. I train students to “add” these types of questions to word problems that may not have them so they care about the answer. Believe it or not, this truly helps the accuracy and on-task behavior of students.

3. Think about any pictures or graphics that would assist the student in solving these types of problems.

Most testing situations give students scratch paper of space on the testing booklet on which to draw pictures or make calculations. Thinking about what they can use whenever they encounter this type of problem will help form critical thinking habits.

4. Determine if there are any manipulatives, or other hands-on methods, that would offer students a concrete way to explore this concept.

For the problem above, students are given a set of lego-type building blocks and a building block base. They select a building block with four dots on it to represent the bicycle speed.

They then select seven more of the four-dot blocks to represent the speed of the motorcycle. If they simple count the dots on the seven blocks, they will know the speed of the motorcycle.

This would be a great activity for the Manipulative Station in the Tabor Rotation Framework!

5. Ask students to formulate a number sentence or equation to represent what they have created using blocks.

Students may write the following:

4 x 7 = SS (speed of scooter)

4 x 7 = 28 miles per hour

6. Develop a game in which students can practice using concrete manipulatives.

The components of a game to practice MCC4.OA.1 should include the concrete manipulatives AND the way the student will be assessed on this content standard.

For Operation Building Blocks, the students turn over a word problem and then try to be the first pair to create a way to solve the problem using building blocks.

7. Have students record their understanding of the concept in a math journal or on a passport.

This way a teacher can check to see if the student truly understands the concept. After completing this math station activity, a student might write the following:

My partner and I used a blue building block with 4 dots on it for the bike. We piled up 7 more for the scooter. When we counted all of the dots, there were 28. That’s how we knew how fast it could go.

8. Use the check for understanding to develop teacher-guided readiness groups or additional activites.

In the Tabor Rotation Framework, this Essential Element is called Clipboard Cruising. Being a constant observer and gathering information on a regular basis gives the teacher the opportunity to make changes in instruction to best meet the needs of students.

Ready to try some POWERFUL, EFFECTIVE, and FUN math stations??? Download these math station activities for using the four operations to solve problems Operation Building Blocks, MCC4.OA.1, finding all factor pairs of a number and multiples of those factors The Ants Go Marching, MCC4.OA.4; reading and writing multi-digit numbers using expanded form and then comparing them Excellently Expanded, MCC4.NBT.2 and The PV Challenge, MCC4.NBT.2.

I piloted these activities first at home with my high schoolers–a freshman and a senior. They said it was the most fun they had had all day while they were learning. Engagement, rigor, relevance, effectiveness, and fun…yep…look at what they created to live in their building blocks…