DIY: How to make Algebra Tiles and how to use them?

Today I am here with another DIY activity that is suitable for kids in middle school. Grades 6 and above students learn and practice concepts of algebra in their school curriculum. Algebra tiles are manipulatives that support students in understanding algebraic concepts through visual representation of equations. 

Buying individual sets of algebra tiles for every student in the class can get expensive. If you’re a teacher, how about you have a session in class before beginning the lesson when students can make their own set of algebra tiles for solving algebra problems? At home, parents can also guide this DIY activity and let their kids make algebra tiles with just a few supplies. 

A Set of Algebra Tiles

One set of algebra tiles basically has three types of tiles in different colors to represent positive or negative variables and numbers in an algebraic equation. A standard set has large squares, skinny rectangles, and small squares. When doing it yourself, one can make as many tiles as required. There is no fixed number of tiles that must be present in a set. However, it is a good idea to have 10 large squares, 10 skinny rectangles, and around 30 small squares to have sufficient tiles when solving a problem.

Easy DIY algebra tiles for middle schoolers

Things You’ll Need:

  • 1 half A4 sheet in blue color
  • 1 half A4 sheet in red color
  • 1 quarter A4 sheet in green color
  • 1 quarter A4 sheet in yellow color
  • 2 quarter A4 sheets in red color
  • A pen/ pencil
  • A ruler
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors


Begin by collecting A4 size sheets in red, blue, green, and yellow colors. 

  • To make half sheets, simply fold the A4 sheet and cut it in halves. 
  • Fold the half sheets and cut them from the middle to make quarter sheets, as shown in the image above. 

You will need one-half of blue and red paper, one-quarter of yellow and green paper, and two-quarters of red paper.

Now, use the half-red and blue sheets and glue them together with the help of a glue stick. 

Make sure you apply a generous amount of glue all over the red paper (pic 2) so that the blue sheet sticks perfectly on it (pic 3). 

Similarly, you can glue the quarter-size green paper with a quarter-red sheet and the quarter-size yellow paper with the other quarter-red sheet, and keep them ready for the next steps (pic 4).

Now, let’s begin making the tiles. 

  • Use the blue and red combo sheet, a pen/ pencil, and a ruler to draw a grid of 5 cm x 5 cm. 
  • Mark the edges in the given size and draw lines to assist in cutting. 
  • When the grid is ready, cut out the squares using a pair of scissors. 
  • In the end, you’ll have squares that are blue on one side and red on the other.  


  • Make a grid of 5 cm x 1 cm on the green and red combo sheet to make our skinny rectangular tiles. 
  • Make the grid depending on the number of tiles you need. 
  • Use a scissor to cut out the grid (pic 2), and there you have it! Rectangular algebra tiles for your set. 

Now let’s make unit tiles that represent the value 1 and -1. 

  • Make a 1 cm x 1 cm grid on the yellow and red combo sheet (pic 1), depending on the number of tiles you want. 
  • Cut out the tiny squares (pic 2) to get unit tiles for your algebra tile set.

Finally, after all these steps, your algebra tiles will be ready! Don’t they look fun and colorful to work with?

Now let’s see what these individual tiles denote. As you can see in the above image – 

  • The large blue tile denotes x2
  • The green rectangular tile denotes x
  • The small yellow tile denotes 1

When you flip the tiles, the red side will denote -x2, -x, and -1 respectively. 

How can you use algebra tiles to solve algebra problems

Algebra tiles allow students to model algebra problems and help them visualize numbers and variables in a given algebraic equation. These manipulatives can be used to solve simple and complex problems. Let me show you a few examples of how students can work with their DIY tiles to find answers. Have a look at this video – 

Wrapping up,

The greatest benefit of using algebra tiles is that students get to create concrete models of abstract mathematical concepts, which ultimately builds clarity on the topic. Plus, algebra tiles are suitable for students with different learning abilities. So, teachers can use them to support classroom instruction without worrying about their suitability. 

Hope you find this fun DIY activity interesting enough to try it out. I am sure students will love to use their hand-made algebra tiles because of their personal touch. Once they get the hang of it, algebra tiles will be their companions until high school when they will be able to solve complex algebra problems using these simple mathematical manipulatives.

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