7 Ways to Spark Disengaged Algebra Students

Do you have students who struggle to "get it" in your algebra class? I've been there! The ideas and resources in this post work for special education algebra students and students who need some convincing that algebra is cool. The post includes links to a solving equations graphic organizer, quick check algebra templates, algebra pennants, math cheat sheets, partner math activities and an algebra 1 word wall. All of the algebra teaching ideas in this post are teacher tested and kid approved! I know they will work to reengage your students.

For 5 years I taught algebra 2 in a self-contained and an inclusion setting. Especially in my own classroom, I needed to reteach a lot of algebra topics. For 7 years before this position I taught algebra and algebra 2 in Boston where a lot of my students needed some convincing that math was super cool. So this post is a collection of resources and ideas that have worked in my classrooms to reach students who need extra support for one reason or another.

I love algebra, so when I hear kids say they don't like it, it breaks my heart. Algebra is that thread that connects so many maths, from what kids are learning in elementary school all the way through college calculus. It was my calculus professor in graduate school who first clued me in on the Freshman Dream. "What is that?" I asked during one of our tutoring sessions. He volunteered in the school's tutoring center once a week. He pointed to where I had simplified an (x+y)2 expression to x2+yin the denominator of a fraction. Here I was in calculus B committing a quintessential algebra error.

If you have students who are struggling in algebra or who just plain don't like it, I've been in your shoes. Most of my 13 years of teaching math were spent convincing kids to love math, that math is great, that algebra is the best, that math takes you places, so I get it! And I know the ideas in this post work.

In this post are 7 tried and true teaching ideas to spark a love of math in disengaged algebra students:

How to Graph Exponential Functions by Hand - free cheat sheet and step-by-step video

In this post is a free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet and video that walks students step-by-step through the process of graphing exponential functions by hand. The cheat sheet can be given to students for their algebra notebooks or enlarged into an algebra anchor chart. I have also linked an algebra 1 word wall. In it are visual references for exponential function vocabulary and compound interest vocabulary that can be displayed on a bulletin board during an exponential functions unit.

It's possible that my favorite functions to graph are exponential functions. They look super intimidating at first with their parenthesis and exponents in the air, but by taking them step-by-step, first creating a parent table then shifting this table to find coordinates to graph, they come together before you know it.

Graphing exponentials is one of my favorite things to teach. I say this about most of the topics we cover in the course, but I see so much growth in students during our exponentials unit that it's hard not to love it. At first, students aren't even sure where to start. By the end of the week, they're graphing like champs.

In this post is a video and a free graphing exponential functions cheat sheet. The cheat sheet can be given to students for their notebooks or enlarged to create an anchor chart (link to directions on how to do this easily is below).


What's the deal with extraneous solutions when solving radical equations?

What's the deal with those extraneous solutions we get when solving radical equations? Why do we get two answers but sometimes have to throw out one or even both? In this post I share a video explaining through graphs the answers we get when solving radical equations.

What's the deal with those extraneous solutions we get when solving radical equations? Why do we get two answers but sometimes have to throw out one or even both? In this post I share a video explaining through graphs the answers we get when solving radical equations.


Algebra 1 Word Wall

This algebra 1 word wall started as a way to help my students link nonlinear functions back to what they learned in algebra. Over the years it has morphed into a supplement for an algebra curriculum, showing algebra 1 topics in action through visual examples and pictures. I have heard from so many algebra teachers how presenting the vocabulary this way has been helpful for their visual and English language learners.

One year teaching algebra 2 I found myself drawing linear graphs on the whiteboard over and over and over again to make links to the x-intercepts, y-intercepts and slope my students were seeing in our nonlinear graphs. I wasted so much time drawing those graphs, so that summer I decided to put together parts of an algebra word wall to cut down on all the drawing. I could hang these reminders in my classroom to point to, saving me time and dry erase markers.

At the time, this algebra word wall only included pieces related to liner equations. I put it up on tpt and went about my life. I remember sitting on the beach with my family and getting a feedback notification that wrecked me. It slammed that word wall for not including more algebra 1 topics.

How to Graph Radical Functions -- video and free printable cheat sheet

In this post is a video and free cheat sheet for graphing radical functions. In the video, I walk through the steps to graph a radical function by first identifying the parent function and the shifts, then using the shifts to create a table that we then graph. This is the easiest way I have found to graph radical functions because it's super straightforward with a step by step approach.

There's more than one way to do everything, including graphing nonlinear functions. The method for graphing radical functions in this post is by far my favorite and one that I learned from my superhero co-teacher Ms. Sullivan. She was the best. Inclusion is the best.

In this post is a step-by-step video for how to graph radical functions and a free printable radical functions cheat sheet (the one I'm holding in the photo).

How to Graph Quadratic Functions in Vertex Form - video, free cheat sheet and free task card activity

This post includes a video teaching students how to graph quadratic functions in vertex form, a link to a free cheat sheet for students to add to their notebooks and a free graphing quadratics in vertex form task cards activity pdf download.

My wonderful husband got me a whiteboard for Christmas so that I could start making math teaching videos. After taking a few days to get everything set up, all the while wondering where to start, I decided to work my way through my math cheat sheets and make companion videos, starting with Algebra 2.

In this post is a video example of graphing quadratic functions in vertex form, a link to a free math reference sheet to go along with the video, and a link to a free vertex form quadratics task card activity.

Towards the end of the video is a shortcut for graphing vertex form quadratics with a pattern instead of a table.

Solve 'n Check! Self-Checking Math Task Card Activities

Solve 'n Check math tasks are a new way for students to work independently on their math problems, checking their work as they go.If you need a way for your students to independently practice the math concepts they are learning, self-checking solve 'n check math tasks allow students to work on their own, freeing up your time to work more closely with students who need more help.

Self-checking math activities are great for giving students incentive to figure out answers while encouraging independent problem solving. Plus, they're a little more hands-off for teachers than other math activities, freeing up time to work more closely with students who are struggling.

I wanted to make a math activity that was both self-checking to increase student independence and that could possibly cut down on grading. After some thought, I came up with an idea for a set of solve 'n check math task cards