We all have summer projects. Personally, I like to go into my back yard annually and destroy it a little bit (followed by putting something in its place). In addition to year projects, I always like to give myself at least one summer blog-ish project. These projects are a bit more intentional than the random musings on whatever math is striking my fancy in a given day. In the past I’ve crafted a summer math camp for kids (and parents of kids). I’ve written “mini-series” on syllabi, rubrics, and the four ingredients to math instruction. They’re intended to be both useful and something I can really sink my teeth into. Go check those projects out if you haven’t. This summer’s blog project is “Algebra Warm Ups for Geometry Teachers.” I’ll explain.
I’m debriefing the year with one of the teachers I supported throughout the 2021-2022 school year, Amy. Amy is an awesome Geometry teacher in Michigan. She’s designed incredible projects that get kids engaged as young geometers. I ask her what the most successful thing this year has been. She tells me that at one point in the year she started offering “Algebra refresh” activities. And that that was the most successful thing she implemented this year.
Allowing students the chance to remember and refresh their Algebra skills while in Geometry was an apparent game changer. Maybe it was the fact that students were experiencing success with material they’ve seen before. Maybe it was the fact they were able to get out of the Geometry routine for a minute and simply break things up. Whatever the reason, the result was – combined with other implemented changes – the teacher’s most successful teaching year to date.
And it makes sense. The Algebra→Geometry→Algebra 2 progression has always baffled me. I think I understand the reason behind it, but I often hear from Algebra 2 teachers how little their students remember from Algebra. It’s because they haven’t done algebra in as much as 16 months when you include Summer breaks!
Also, Algebra is tough. For better or worse, it’s often described as the lynchpin of secondary mathematics understanding: students who grasp algebra and algebraic thinking go on to experience academic success more generally. Despite its importance, we allow students to go a year+ without doing Algebra. Of course, what is a Geometry teacher to do, when they too have many topics and themes to cover throughout their course?
For these reasons, I’ve created a school year’s worth of Algebra warm ups. Thirty six weeks, five days per weeks covering fundamental Algebra concepts in order to keep students’ Algebra skills-at-the-ready preparation for Algebra 2. Being warm ups (or “bellringers” as some teachers like to call them), they are short (<5 minutes) and accessible. Starting with pre-Algebra concepts, even students that struggled in Algebra will be able to give them a shot.
While the warm-ups aren’t necessary all quality tasks, most do adhere to good, quick pedagogical routines such as “Which One Doesn’t Belong?”, Number Talks, thin slicing, interpreting student work, matching, and “tell me what you know” items. Some items are open-ended, others have more concrete solutions. Some warm ups require discussion, while others are perhaps more appropriate to journaling. While many of the tasks kind of facilitate themselves, I’ll leave it up to you, the expert, to facilitate them as you best see fit. One of the secret goals of this project is to expose you to task-types that might become imbued with your regular practice.
This is the explainer post, to view the wam ups and get more info about the rationale check out the Algebra Warm Ups for Geometry Teachers Landing Page.