Algebra Tiles Question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by JimG, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. JimG

    JimG Comrade

    Jul 27, 2017
    Likes Received:

    Nov 16, 2019

    For those that have experience using algebra tiles in instruction, do you prefer the students to use physical tiles or virtual tiles?

    Pros of physical tiles:
    1. Hits tactile learning aspect in addition to visual learning.

    Cons of physical tiles:
    1. Can get broken, misplaced, thrown, etc.
    2. Assuming a class set, students cannot use them at home.

    Pros of virtual tiles (assuming 1 to 1 with technology):
    1. No need to worry about them getting broken, misplaced, thrown, etc.
    2. Students can access them at home.

    Cons of virtual tiles:
    1. Students miss out on the tactile aspect.

    Right now, I have spent a day with students just using the physical tiles in class, and then a day with the students just using virtual tiles in class. Perhaps when we use them again, I may give them the option to use their preferred style? Given that I have already seen some of the physical tiles cons after just one day of use, I am reluctant to rely on those the whole year.

    For reference, this is 9th grade Algebra 1, and the tiles will be used for solving equations, solving systems of two equations, multiplying binomials, factoring trinomials, and completing the square.
  3. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

    May 14, 2012
    Likes Received:

    Nov 16, 2019

    I think the physical tiles are the best as long as students are meeting expectations. If they were not respecting them or being thrown, I would take them and make them cut out paper tiles or something. Maybe spending more time on behavior expectations with the tiles will help since you are planning to use them a bunch!

    I would also make one set per student (maybe in a pencil case) so they feel responsible for their set. But I love algebra tiles!
    Obadiah likes this.
  4. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

    Jul 27, 2015
    Likes Received:

    Nov 16, 2019

    In 3rd grade, I had an advanced math class where I used a (fake) balance with pawns to place on each side of the balance (which represented an equation or inequality). I've also used cards, often with a letter on it, to cover up a number on the blackboard in general math class. I found them quite helpful. Back to the pawns and scale, the class gained much achievement through experimentation and creating their own equations.

    For any age group, considering how the brain learns and explores through association and connections, if available, I'd personally recommend using both the tactile and the virtual manipulatives for any mathematics. There seems to be something unique about manipulating a computer mouse or hitting keys that is separate from manipulating actual objects, but realistic manipulation of objects also hits areas of the brain not affected by virtual manipulation. Here's where I'm thinking.

    I just now picked up an object on my desk, my cell phone. I moved it through actual 3-D space, visually comparing the original placement to the new placement, feeling my hand move from one position to the other, and even hearing the slightest tap of the phone against my desk. I even felt the phone and the desk against my hand. None of these experiences occur on a computer. But concerning virtual manipulation, right now, while I'm typing this post, my brain is adjusting and coordinating the movement of my fingers to match the thoughts of words in my brain. Interestingly, if I try to concentrate on this connection between my finger movement and words, I start mistyping. To move my mouse arrow across the screen, my mind has to connect the movement of my hand with the arrow. I remember the first time I sat down at a workshop on computers and the first time I'd ever used a mouse. My brain wasn't near ready for this experience and the arrow went flying every which way--I had no control over the mouse at all (and neither did most of the rest of the class since we were all newbies to computers)! My point is, these are two different types of manipulatives, and the more connections and adjustments the brain needs to make, the stronger the learning and the more creative the brain becomes in using what is learned.

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