Unit 2 goes right from expressions and operations into univariate equations and inequalities. The first day of the unit students refreshed their memories on how to solve one-step equations and the properties of equality and inequality. We tried something new this year as well – including literal equations in with the other equations and inequalities. Last year we spent a couple of days at the end of the unit trying to teach literal equations and many of the students struggled. I still have a lot of students struggling (still VERY open to teaching suggestions here) but it does seem to flow better if you slowly integrate those types of problems into the “regular” equations. During the one- and two-step days, every student was expected to check their answer to every problem by using substitution. After the first few days, we highly encouraged it but did not require it of the students any longer.
The next day of the unit we practiced solving two-step equations. Again, justifying each step using their algebraic properties and checking each solution in the notebook. Then they worked on the maze and the first so many students to correctly finish and show all of their work received a piece of candy. I enjoy activities like this maze (and those partner sheets) because it allows students to self-check their work without directly giving them the correct answer. The only problem with this one is that I suppose if a student had been smart and lazy enough they could have substituted in all of the options until one worked.
We spent two more days on solving one- and two-step problems, but these days were focused on inequalities. Friday we completed notes and practice problems in the interactive notebook and on their desks, and then Monday they did a scavenger hunt activity.
Up until this point the students were really doing great with this unit. They complained a bunch about the properties, but I only had two or three students complain about having to show all of their work. One- and two-step equations and inequalities are also taught in Foundations of Algebra, so for most of the students they had at least seen this topic before, if they didn’t remember how to do it.
The next six days were focused on multi-step problems. We did two pages on the steps to solving multi-step problems in the interactive notebook, and then one page on the different types of solutions possible.
I also did two Mathematics Assessment Project lessons during these two days. One of those lessons was a complete disaster (Building and Solving Linear Equations) while the other one went incredibly smoothly (Solving Linear Equations). My students at this point in the unit did not want to be creating their own equations step-by-step, they simply wanted to be solving them. Trying to get some of them to create their own in that first classroom challenge was one of the worst things we’ve done so far this year! The second one, on the other hand, gave students a chance to practice using their translating skills and ability to solve multi-step equations at the same time. Many students struggled at first but almost every group successfully completed the task by the end of the block.
My collaborative teacher and I needed to do more small-group instruction during this unit and of course that’s only obvious now that I can see the effects of it. We still have some students struggling to solve two-step equations, much less multi-step equations. Also there should have been more problems with fractions, variables on the same side, and multi-step literal equations. Those are things that I will change for next year, and for right now just slip them in where I can.