Category Archives: Algebra

SMP2: Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively #LL2LU (Take 2)

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We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can reason abstractly and quantitatively.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2)

But…What if I think I can’t? What if I have no idea how to contextualize and decontextualize a situation? How might we offer a pathway for success?

We have studied this practice for a while, making sense of what it means for students to contextualize and decontextualize when solving a problem.

Students reason abstractly and quantitatively when solving problems with area and volume. Calculus students reason abstractly and quantitatively when solving related rates problems. In what other types of problem do the units help you not only reason about the given quantities but make sense of the computations involved?

What about these problems from The Official SAT Study Guide, The College Board and Educational Testing Service, 2009. How would your students solve them? How would you help students who are struggling with the problems solve them?

There are g gallons of paint available to paint a house. After n gallons have been used, then, in terms of g and n, what percent of the pain has not been used?
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A salesperson’s commission is k percent of the selling price of a car. Which of the following represents the commission, in dollar, on 2 cars that sold for $14,000 each?
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In our previous post, SMP-2 Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively #LL2LU (Take 1), we offered a pathway to I can reason abstractly and quantitatively. What if we offer a second pathway for reasoning abstractly and quantitatively?

Level 4:
I can create multiple coherent representations of a task by detailing solution pathways, and I can show connections between representations.

Level 3:
I can create a coherent representation of the task at hand by detailing a solution pathway that includes a beginning, middle, and end.   

Beginning:
I can identify and connect the units involved using an equation, graph, or table.

Middle:
I can attend to and document the meaning of quantities throughout the problem-solving process.

End:
I can contextualize a solution to make sense of the quantity and the relationship in the task and to offer a conclusion.

Level 2:
I can periodically stop and check to see if numbers, variables, and units make sense while I am working mathematically to solve a task.

Level 1:
I can decontextualize a task to represent it symbolically as an expression, equation, table, or graph, and I can make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations.

What evidence of contextualizing and decontextualizing do you see in the work below?

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[Cross-posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]

SMP2: Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively #LL2LU (Take 1)

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We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can reason abstractly and quantitatively.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2)

I wonder what happens along the learning journey and in schooling. Very young learners of mathematics can answer verbal story problems with ease and struggle to translate these stories into symbols. They use images and pictures to demonstrate understanding, and they answer the questions in complete sentences.

If I have 4 toy cars and you have 5 toy cars, how many cars do we have together?

If I have 17 quarters and give you 10 of them, how many quarters will I have left?

Somewhere, word problems become difficult, stressful, and challenging, but should they? Are we so concerned with the mechanics and the symbols that we’ve lost meaning and purpose? What if every unit/week/day started with a problem or story – math in context? If learners need a mini-lesson on a skill, could we offer it when they have a need-to-know?

Suppose we work on a couple of Standards of Mathematical Practice at the same time.  What if we offer our learners a task, Running Laps (4.NF) or Laptop Battery Charge 2 (S-ID, F-IF) from Illustrative Math, before teaching fractions or linear functions, respectively? What if we make two learning progressions visible? What if we work on making sense of problems and persevering in solving them as we work on reasoning abstractly and quantitatively.  (Hat tip to Kato Nims (@katonims129) for this idea and its implementation for Running Laps.)

Level 4:
I can connect abstract and quantitative reasoning using graphs, tables, and equations, and I can explain their connectedness within the context of the task.

Level 3:
I can reason abstractly and quantitatively.

Level 2:
I can represent the problem situation mathematically, and I can attend to the meaning, including units, of the quantities, in addition to how to compute them.

Level 1:
I can define variables and constants in a problem situation and connect the appropriate units to each.

You could see how we might need to focus on making sense of the problem and persevering in solving it. Do we have faith in our learners to persevere? We know they are learning to reason abstractly and quantitatively.  Are we willing to use learning progressions as formative assessment early and see if, when, where, and why our learners struggle?

Daily we are awed by the questions our learners pose when they have a learning progression to offer guidance through a learning pathway.  How might we level up ourselves? What if we ask first?

Send the message: you can do it; we can help.

[Cross-posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]

 

Visual: SMP-5 Use Appropriate Tools Strategically #LL2LU

We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can use appropriate tools strategically.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5)

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Level 4:
I can communicate details of how the chosen tools added to the solution pathway strategy using descriptive notes, words, pictures, screen shots, etc.

Level 3:
I can use appropriate tools strategically.

Level 2:
I can use tools to make my thinking visible, and I can experiment with enough tools to display  confidence when explaining how I am using the selected tools appropriately and effectively.

Level 1:
I can recognize when a tool such as a protractor, ruler, tiles, patty paper, spreadsheet, computer algebra system, dynamic geometry software, calculator, graph, table, external resources, etc., will be helpful in making sense of a problem.

Suppose you are solving an equation.

Are you practicing use appropriate tools strategically if you use the numerical solve command on your graphing calculator?

nsolve

Or what about using your calculator to substitute values of x until you find a value that makes a true statement?

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 4.07.28 PM Are you practicing use appropriate tools strategically if you use a computer algebra system to explain your steps? 

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Or what if you use the graphing capability of your handheld?

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Consider each of the following learning goals:

I can explain each step in solving a simple equation as following from the equality of numbers asserted at the previous step, starting from the assumption that the original equation has a solution, and I can construct a viable argument to justify a solution method.  CCSS-M A-REI.A.1.

I can solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented by letters. CCSS-M A-REI.B.3.

I can explain why the x-coordinates of the points where the graphs of the equations y=(x) and y=g(x) intersect are the solutions of the equation f(x)=g(x); find the solutions approximately, e.g., using technology to graph the functions, make tables of values, or find successive approximations. CCSS-M A-REI.D.11.

Does use appropriate tools strategically depend on the learner? Or the learning goal? Or the teacher? Or the availability of tools?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]

SMP5: Use Appropriate Tools Strategically #LL2LU

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We want every learner in our care to be able to say

I can use appropriate tools strategically.
(CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5)

But…What if I think I can’t? What if I have no idea what are appropriate tools in the context of what we are learning, much less how to use them strategically? How might we offer a pathway for success?

Level 4:
I can communicate details of how the chosen tools added to the solution pathway strategy using descriptive notes, words, pictures, screen shots, etc.

Level 3:
I can use appropriate tools strategically.

Level 2:
I can use tools to make my thinking visible, and I can experiment with enough tools to display confidence when explaining how I am using the selected tools appropriately and effectively.

Level 1:
I can recognize when a tool such as a protractor, ruler, tiles, patty paper, spreadsheet, computer algebra system, dynamic geometry software, calculator, graph, table, external resources, etc., will be helpful in making sense of a problem.

We still might need some conversation about what it means to use appropriate tools strategically. Is it not enough to use appropriate tools? Would it help to find a common definition of strategically to use as we learn? And, is use appropriate tools strategically a personal choice or a predefined one?

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How might we expand our toolkit and experiment with enough tools to display confidence when explaining why the selected tools are appropriate and effective for the solution pathway used?  What if we practice with enough tools that we make strategic – highly important and essential to the solution pathway – choices?

What if apply we 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions to learn with and from the learners in our community?

  • Anticipate what learners will do and why strategies chosen will be useful in solving a task
  • Monitor work and discuss a variety of approaches to the task
  • Select students to highlight effective strategies and describe a why behind the choice
  • Sequence presentations to maximize potential to increase learning
  • Connect strategies and ideas in a way that helps improve understanding

What if we extend the idea of interacting with numbers flexibly to interacting with appropriate tools flexibly?  How many ways and with how many tools can we learn and visualize the following essential learning?

I can understand solving equations as a process of reasoning and explain the reasoning.  CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSA.REI.A.1

What tools might be used to learn and master the above standard?

  • How might learners use algebra tiles strategically?
  • When might paper and pencil be a good or best choice?
  • What if a learner used graphing as the tool?
  • What might we learn from using a table?
  • When is a computer algebra system (CAS) the go-to strategic choice?

Then, what are the conditions which make the use of each one of these tools appropriate and strategic?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]

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“The American Heritage Dictionary Entry: Strategically.” American Heritage Dictionary Entry: Strategically. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.

A lesson in making use of structure from/with @jmccalla1

Jeff McCalla, Confessions of a Wannabe Super Teacher, published some really good thinking about collaboration vs. competition.  In his post, he describes challenging his learners to investigate the following:

Which of these product rules could be used to quickly expand (x+y+3)(x+y-3)? Now, try expanding the expression.

Product Rules

Jennifer Wilson, Easing the Hurry Syndrome, and I have been tinkering with and drafting #LL2LU learning progressions for the Standards of Mathematical Practice. I have really struggled to get my head wrapped around the meaning of I can look for and make use of structure, SMP-7.  The current draft, to date, looks like this:

What if I tried to apply my understanding of I can look for and make use of structure to Jeff’s challenge?

Scan 1

Note: There is a right parenthesis missing in the figure above.
It should have (x+y)² in the area that represents (x+y)(x+y).

What if we coach our learners to make their thinking visible? What if we use learning progressions for self-assessment, motivation, and connected thinking? I admit that I was quite happy with myself with all that pretty algebra, but then I read the SMP-7 learning progression. Could I integrate geometric and algebraic reasoning to confirm structure? How flexible am I as a mathematical thinker? I lack confidence with geometric representation using algebra tiles, so it is not my go to strategy. However, in the geometric representation, I found what Jeff was seeking for his learners.  I needed to see x+y as a single object.

How might we model making thinking visible in conversation and in writing? How might we encourage productive peer-to-peer discourse around mathematics? How might we facilitate opportunities for in-the-moment self- and peer-assessment that is formative, constructive, and growth-oriented?

Visual: Encouraging mathematical flexibility #LL2LU

From Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math: for Students:

People see mathematics in very different ways. And they can be very creative in solving problems. It is important to keep math creativity alive.

and

When you learn math in school, if a teacher shows you a method, think to yourself, what are the other ways of solving this? There are always others. Discuss them with your teacher or friends or parents. This will help you learn deeply.

I keep thinking about mathematical flexibility.  If serious about flexibility, how do we communicate to learners actions that they can take to practice?

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How might we narrow what separates high achievers from low achievers? If number flexibility is a gateway to success, what actions are we willing to take to encourage, build confidence, and illuminate multiple pathways to success?

 

 

Visual: SMP-1 Make sense of problems and persevere #LL2LU

What if we display learning progressions in our learning space to show a pathway for learners? After Jennifer Wilson (Easing the Hurry Syndrome) and I published SMP-1: Make sense of problems and persevere #LL2LU, I wondered how we might display this learning progression in classrooms. Dabbling with doodling, I drafted this visual for classroom use. Many thanks to Sam Gough for immediate feedback and encouragement during the doodling process.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 1.21.17 PMI wonder how each of my teammates will use this with student-learners. I am curious to know student-learner reaction, feedback, and comments. If you have feedback, I would appreciate having it too.

What if we are deliberate in our coaching to encourage learners to self-assess, question, and stretch?

[Cross posted on Easing the Hurry Syndrome]