7 Fun Classroom Activities To Do With Algebra Tiles

Algebra tiles are simple yet effective tools that help students explore and work on different algebraic concepts. Games and activities are popularly used by educators to provide a hands-on learning experience while strengthening the understanding of vital math concepts. 

Like any other math topic, teachers can conduct algebra tiles activities in the classroom. These activities give students a chance to do something new without diverting from the topic of discussion. 

In this article, we bring to you a few interesting algebra tiles activities your students can get involved in while you’re covering the concepts of algebra in class. Read on to know more.

Fun algebra tiles activities for improving algebra skills

1. I Have —–. Who Else Has ——?

I Have -----. Who Else Has ------? - Algebra tile activity

This is an activity to help students develop a concrete understanding of different algebra tiles and how simple integers and variables can be represented using these tiles. Before you conduct this activity in the classroom, you will need to make a set of cards using index paper. Make twice as many cards as the number of students in your class so that each student gets two. The cards must have visual algebra tile representations of expressions like x2, x, 1, 3x, 5, 3x2, 6x, -x2, -x, -1, -6x, – 2x2, and so on. Make at least two cards of one expression.  Here’s how you can go about it –

  • Distribute two cards to each student. 
  • Now, let one student come ahead and say the algebra tile representation depicted on their card. For example, “I have – x2. Who else has – x2?”
  • Students who have the same representation on their cards must raise their hands.
  • You can now ask them to come forward and show their cards to the class to display the correct answer.
  • Similarly, other students can come up and repeat the activity in class.

2. Missing Arm of The Clock

Missing Arm of The Clock - algebra tile activity

For this fun activity, prepare sheets with a clock printed on them. But make sure you find one that has no arms on it. Just the numbers. If you don’t find it, you can create a simple clock without arms in MS Paint and print them on paper. Distribute one sheet and a set of algebra tiles to each student. 

  • Begin by writing a simple algebraic equation on the board. Select equations whose answers are present on the clock, i.e., from 1 to 12. 
  • Ask students to find the value of x using algebra ties and mark their answers on the clock. Let them use a pencil to mark their answers so they can erase them before you move to the next question. 
  • Now, draw a clock on the board and ask students to share their answers. Depict the correct answer on the clock and have a student come forward to discuss how they got the correct answer. 
  • Have students erase the answer they marked on the clock. You can now move on to the next question. 

3. How Fast Can You Be?

How Fast Can You Be? - algebra tile activity

To solve complex algebraic equations, students must have their basics right. Correctly modeling algebraic equations is the first step to finding the right answer. To promote quick thinking, do this activity in class to see how fast your students can model binomials and trinomials using algebra tiles. 

  • Write an expression on the board. 
  • Start a timer as students begin using their tiles to create a visual representation of the expression written on the board.
  • Stop the timer and ask all students to pause when a student raises their hand to indicate they are done. 
  • Go check their representation. If it is correct, note the student’s time on the leaderboard. 
  • If incorrect, start the timer again, and let other students work until someone represents it correctly. 
  • You can do as many rounds of this activity as you want. 

The student who makes it to the top of the leaderboard after all rounds are complete can be rewarded if you want.

4. Challenge a Friend

It is common for students to solve math problems. But rarely do they get a chance to come up with their own questions. This activity gives students the opportunity when they can formulate their own algebraic problems using algebra tiles. 

  • Give every student a set of algebra tiles and let them create an algebraic problem using the tiles.
  • Now, ask students to pick up one classmate whom they would like to challenge to solve their problem.
  • Give students ample time to find answers. When everyone is done, ask them to return to their original places and check their classmate’s answers. 
  • You can go around the class to help students in case their answers are incorrect and review the concepts one more time. 

5. Matching Activity

Matching Activity - algebra tile activity

Matching is a simple and common activity for little kids, but you can also use it to make algebra class fun! Let’s see what you can do to carry out this activity in class – 

Use magnetic tiles for this activity if you have them, or you can draw algebra tiles and color them on a whiteboard.

  • Model 5 or 10 algebraic equations using tiles on one side of the board, and write their answers randomly on the other side. 
  • Students must now work on finding the answers. 
  • As and when students get the answer, one of them can come up to the board and draw a line matching the equation with its answer. 
  • The activity ends when all algebra tile equations are matched with their answers. 

6. Complete The Square

Complete The Square - algebra tile activity

Another activity that challenges the minds of students and allows them to use their problem-solving and visualization skills is “Complete the Square”. Demonstrate how students can make large squares by using algebra tiles and find the length of their sides. Begin with simple algebraic expressions and level up the difficulty with every question.

  • Write an algebraic expression on the whiteboard.
  • Ask students to make a large square using given algebra tiles.
  • Give hints in between if you find kids struggling with completing the square.
  • When the squares are ready, have them write the length of the sides of the square they just formed and find its area for the given value of x.
  • For instance, you could ask them to complete the square for the expression x2 + 4x + 4 and find the expression for its length and calculate its area when x = 4. 

7. Represent the Statements

The objective of this activity is to help students learn how statements expressing mathematical relationships can be turned into concrete visual models using algebra tiles. Prepare strips of paper with statements like – 

  1. Five more than a number doubled (for 2x + 5)
  2. A number turned into a square (for x2)
  3. Eight more than a number (for x + 8)
  4. Two times a number minus three times another number (for 2x – 3y)
  • Put all strips in a box and shuffle them.
  • Now, let students come over to you and pick one strip of paper with a statement written on it.
  • Let students go back to their seats and figure out the algebraic expression and represent it with algebra tiles. 
  • Go to their seats and check their individual answers. 
  • You can discuss the statements and their representation in the end in front of the entire class.

Wrapping up, 

Activities can take up a lot of classroom instruction time if not planned well. This happens because there are many students in the class and it is important for each student to get a chance to get involved in the activity and demonstrate their skill.

Therefore, plan and prepare in advance so you have everything organized a day before you wish to conduct the activity in class. Some of the above activities do require pre-planning and preparation. So, pick your choice depending on the amount of time you have. Squeeze in simple activities when you have less time and allocate time-consuming activities on exclusive activity days. 

We hope you and your students will enjoy doing these activities together and have a fun time while working on those important algebraic concepts.

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