Super Math Teacher

The thoughts of a middle school math teacher

Factoring polynomials

I hate teaching factoring of polynomials.  Every year, it is a struggle to get students to remember how to factor the different types of trinomials.  So many rules and tricks!  It is confusing.  This is what I have always heard from students as they try factoring.

This year, I changed my method.  I wish I could take credit for it, but I found it somewhere online.  It is the tic tac toe method.  It works.  And my students actually understood the method.  THey could apply it to all types of trinomials!

I watched mt students during the test.  SOme students knew the other methods for factoring, but most used the tic tac toe method.  Even my students who struggle with math content all year were being successful.  I count this as a win!

The steps are explained in my powerpoint, below.

Factoring polynomials

Here are some samples of my students’ work.



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Adding and Subtracting Polynomials

This activity was done the day before spring break.  We had finished exponents, and were starting the polynomial unit.  I needed to keep my 8th grade students engaged, introduce key vocabulary, and do something that would be kind of fun for them.

Sarah at Math Equals Love wrote about a quick activity that she did a few years ago.  I decided to use her activity.  After reading her blog post, I made a few modifications for my students of higher ability.

Students worked in pairs and received dice and a set of cards with 3 different cards.  hey drew the cards (one from each color) and created a polynomial.  After drawing cards to create a second polynomial, they rolled the dice to determine addition or subtraction. I gave students a recording sheet to show their work.

Since this was essentially combining like terms, something we had done back in September, students were successful after a few minutes.  Most continued to work according to the directions.  However, I have a few students who are of a higher ability.  Therefore, I needed to modify the directions for them.

Thai and Lisa were instructed to draw 2 cards from each color.  This had them combining like terms within their polynomials.  Then they added or subtracted.

As students completed the first time through the cards, they were instructed to mix up the cards and continue.  Some students mixed all the colors together into one stack, and then drew the top 3 cards.  This resulted in polynomials that had different terms.  Combine like terms, fill in terms with coefficients of 0, arrange the cards in standard form……all of these skills were used in the activity.

I would say this was a successful activity.  students were able to add and subtract polynomials that they created.  They demonstrated that they could combine like terms within polynomials.


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