Reflection: Staircase of Complexity Solving Equations by Constructing Arguments (Day 1 of 2) - Section 3: Getting Started on the Linear Equation Project


The first time I taught this project, I came away from it thinking that in the future I'd find a more innovative way to have kids "collect" these properties.  Maybe I'd use a Gallery Walk, or maybe I'd make each student an expert on a different property, and then they'd have to talk to each other to fill in all the blanks.  I still think that those are good ideas, but none of that ended up happening this year.  Instead, it almost feels like I innovated by taking an extremely traditional approach.

Before I tell you about that, I should first say that I made a quick cosmetic change to the Linear Equation Project: this notecatcher became Part 1, what was Part 1 became Part 2, and so on, so now there are four parts to the project.  It just made more sense to be able to tell kids that this is actually part of the project, rather than it being another handout that goes with - but isn't really part of - the work.

Ok, so what do I mean by an extremely traditional approach?  First of all, I introduced this new project by telling students that this project was going to be short and sweet.  I distinguished it from the Number Line Project (which consisted of many parts and was spread over two weeks) by explaining that this one was all going to happen in the space of one week, with just a few short parts, and that quality was going to be very important.

Then, I told kids that we were going to finish Part 1 before they left class today.  This way, I thought, they'd all feel successful about completing one part of the project, and they'd be more motivated to get the rest done to build on that success. I distributed the Part 1 Notecatcher, and then proceeded to tell students that I was going to give them all of these notes in a very traditional lecture format, and that all they had to do was make sure to get all the notes.

In a funny way, this was an innovation in my classroom.  Kids are so accustomed to working without my help in small groups that they found this to be a refreshing change.  Everyone was very engaged in getting the notes, and my prediction about how it would help them get excited to finish the project turned out to be spot on.

After we covered all these properties in one day, it’s neat to then require kids to refer back to these notes.  Here, they learn that notes can be useful.  That feeling of not knowing something, but then finding in your own notes is empowering.

Additionally, when we commit to doing this in one day, and nothing else, neat conversations open up.  Kids provide examples, and ask “What if?” questions.  They are happy to see that they know a lot of these properties, even without names, and that’s a confidence builder.  Then, just days later, we’re back to intensive individual work time.


  Staircase of Complexity: Making the Properties Notecatcher a Part of the Project
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Solving Equations by Constructing Arguments (Day 1 of 2)

Unit 3: Solving Linear Equations
Lesson 5 of 12

Objective: SWBAT use properties of operations and equality to justify the steps of solving a linear equation.

Big Idea: To build a great argument, it always helps to start by stating the obvious.

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3 teachers like this lesson
Math, Proofs, Algebra, Linear and Nonlinear Equations, equation solving, properties (Algebra)
  43 minutes
linear equation project part 2 example
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