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Interesting algebra to Year 11 low ability

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by yix, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. yix


    In the past I have had some success with low attaining and challenging pupils wusing the following:
    • Presentation/discussioin of the history of algebra;
    • Number tricks of the think of a number, then...... variety (where youguess their original number or final result) as these can often be explained using algebra;
    • Combining algebra with parallel lines and angles around a point - they seem to be a lot more comfortable the spatial maths and it gives them a great context to apply their algebra;
    • Devising formula that are interesting to them - I often use an Usain Bolt video to talk about speed then onto working out his speed in mph then theirs.
    Hope this helps
  2. Try using simple games, perhaps ones with which they are already familiar. Get them to track how many times each player won a game, then say "if you got 3 points for each win, what would your score be?". This can then, obviously, be turned on its head "Harry won 7 times, and this gave him a total of 35 points ... how many points is each game worth?"
    You can extend this then to collecting like terms. 2 mins playing one game (x) and two minutes playing a second game (y). Then make "super teams", so if you combined the results of 5 particular pupils what would happen?
    Brackets ... John won 3 games of squares and 2 games of hangman. If he did this 7 times .... obviously leading to 7(3s + 2g). Then bring substitution back in. 4 points for winning a game of squares (s=4) and 3 for winning hangman (h=3) ... etc.
    The skill here, of course, is in making the leap from "games" to algebra quite gradual and, ultimately, useful. You don't just want to just suddenly say "ok, so now do some algebra questions" ... you need to get them there without realising.
  3. Too late to edit, sorry.
    I freely recognise that the above suggestion is probably not hugely original, and nor is it perfect. It's going quite well with a bottom set Year 7 class at the moment, but I'm not sure I'd be able to use it for the likes of 3ab^2 x 4abc or algebraic fractions etc ... but for a low ability Year 11, how far do you want/need to take it?
    It does, however, work really well for simultaneous equations (again, not really low Year 11, but quite nice for sets other than top set who need things to be dressed up a bit sometimes!)
  4. My advice would be to concentrate on basic number work such as dealing with money and calculations involving time. In my experience, bottom set year 11 struggle with even the basic numeracy and therefore I would argue the relevance of trying to teach them algebra when they can't do calculations involving numbers. Just because algebra might be on the scheme of work for this term doesn't mean that you have to stick to it, it's all about finding the right material and qualifications for the students you are teaching. A course following functional skills maths would be far more appropriate and doesn't contain any algebra, but focuses on the real life maths that might help them when they leave school. Furthermore, a FS qualification would be more beneficial to the students when seeking employment or starting college than any GCSE grade below a D. It may be school policy to enter everyone for GCSE but for some students this course is completely inappropriate, if they appear completely switch off with algebra, ask yourself why are you trying to get them to learn something that has no relevance at all and completely beyond their understanding of the subject!
  5. What about thinking of formulae for things like how good a joke is or which footballer is better.
    For example how good a joke is:
    LxR - D all divided by H, where L is how many people laughed, r how rude it is, D how many people didn't understand it and H, how many people had heard it before. Then get them to tell jokes and find the best one with substitution

    I've only tried it with jokes but really think it could be used for loads of different things.
  6. Hi, If they are uninterested it's because they think it is irrelevant and no about of talking will change that so dont bother. What you can do to make it interesting is to download the "who wants to be a millionaire" resource on here and change the questions to suit their ability. Also change the rewards from points to merits or house points or stamps or even sweets that they can share as a group if they reach the end of the game as a group.

    It worked for me.
  7. Zebfriedman

    Zebfriedman New commenter


    There is an amazing old DIME resource which was written by the late Geoff Gilles. It's called Tak Tiles 'teaching algebra through geometry'. There are bits and pieces if you google it. I couldn't find the tiles anywhere so I got our DT department to make them using their laser cutter. Practical, interesting, fun. I will teach it this way next time. I would be happy to send you a direct link if your interested.
  8. I'm interested Zebfriedman. What's the link?
  9. I love this response and totally agree! I got out of mainstream for the above reason. I teach EBD in a special school and I do what I think is appropriate for my kids not what the curriculum says I have to!

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