[MTBoS Blaugust] Algebra Properties Discovery Lesson

I want my Algebra 1 class to go as fast as possible, yet I also want them to use generation, a la “Make It Stick”[1], as much as possible. So in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep, I came up with this idea.


Generation is the idea of making students struggle with something before you show them how to do it. I’m not really sure yet how much these Algebra I students have learned before this year, so I hope this’ll make it interesting for those kids who already knew it but are seeing it “from a different angle”.

The google slides should be self-explanatory[2].

(Link in case iframe is broken)

Reasons why I like this approach more than what I’ve done in the past:

  • Generation: students deciding for themselves which properties work for which operations.
  • Collaboration (and they’re using whiteboards hanging on the walls)
  • Cross-curricular: taking English definitions and applying those ideas to math concepts.
  • Mistake correcting: students have to explain why certain properties don’t work, which will (hopefully) reduce how much they make that mistake later.


[1] I still haven’t read the book, but I’ve read so much of what others have said about it, that (1) I really want to read the book and (2) I feel like I’m beginning to understand many of the ideas mentioned in the book.

[2] If they’re not, please tell me because I need to tell my students! 🙂


1 Comment

Filed under Teaching

One response to “[MTBoS Blaugust] Algebra Properties Discovery Lesson

  1. I love the structure of this lesson. I always find in my classes and observations (and my own experiences as a student) that students remember things better if they get to work with it hands on, and discover things before formal instruction. I think this is especially effective for these properties, because teachers can so easily just regurgitate these properties to students, and it doesn’t stick. I also really love that when students were tasked with naming the properties that you gave them the non-math definitions of commute, associate, identity, distribute, and inverse. I’m sure that will help them understand and remember these properties and their names (which is why I’m sure you chose to do it). Really cool!

    A neat challenge for a lesson on properties of addition, depending on how well you think the class could handle it, could also be to have students prove some of these properties, as the proofs are pretty straightforward.

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