Here you will see students as young as 4 and 5 years old doing algebra and "advanced" math, without ever knowing it's supposed to be hard.
You are invited to learn how to use this method...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

More Compund Lessons With Base Ten Blocks

Part of what makes this method so effective is the idea of compound lessons. Why learn "one thing at a time"? One thing at a time is great when introducing concepts...but once concepts are understood it's more fun to practice more than one thing at a time, which is why I emphasize compound lessons.  And as you can see using base ten blocks to do it makes math fun.

algebra with base ten blocks, mortensen math, fun math activities
A six year old factors x² + 11x + 30 all by himself and celebrates with his magical math microphone.
People ask me what they should get. Get a combo kit. A set of Multi-Tens and a password or both passwords...and you are good to go. Seriously.  That's it.

In this hour we practiced mostly addition and multiplication but we did activities that were fun to practice them rather than doing worksheets over and over again. Using worksheets to memorize multiplication facts becomes counter productive at some point.
Just building addends over and over again would make math anything but fun. So even with this activity which by itself many kids find fun, we spice it up by racing your brother or mom or who ever happens to be around.  Then we build some pyramids. All kids can benefit from building pyramids, the benefits are manifold. You get fine motor skills, addends which naturally include addition and subtraction skills, and the all important repetition which puts the facts in the memory for instant recall later... 
Here the older boy is feeding his mother and brother combinations for their pyramids. and supervises the construction. They are building 11's, later we could build and find patterns with 11's.
Pretty soon he gets in on the base ten block building action. And his little brother hands over some combinations...sometimes we build all 45 addends at one sitting but today we just did all the ones from 8 to 10 and then 11's and 12's. How many math facts is that?
Children are always quite pleased when they complete one of these...or several of these. Sometimes we build towns or cities or temple complexes or moon bases (or whatever is in their imagination), made entirely out of pyramids built using base ten blocks, but today we played algebra which will give us addends and multiplication too. Started out with problems like x² + 7x +12 and worked our way up. We started there because he already has some experience factoring polynomials and I wanted to start easy...then we went on to x² + 8x + 12, and x² + 8x + 15,  x² + 8x +16...Went thru several with 9x then on to 10x,  those polynomials have lots of combinations.

x² + 9x + 8  you get addends for 9, 1 and 8, and 1 x 8 = 8.
x² + 9x + 14 you get addends for 9, 2 and 7, and 2 x 7 = 14.
x² + 9x + 18 you get addends for 9, 3 and 6, and 3 x 6 = 18.
x² + 9x + 20 you get addends for 9,  4 and 5, and 4 x 5 = 20. 
You don't have to do every single one in order...mix it up and have fun.  I did a couple with 10x like x² + 10x + 16 and then x² + 10x + 24...didn't do x² + 10x + 25...which is a good place to start if you want to go down the square numbers and square roots path which are made plain and EASY with base ten blocks.  I had a mom tell me they completed the square with 24 once. I said go back and take a look at that...24 will complete a rectangle but certainly doesn't complete a square. 25 would complete a square...and completing the square is quite a useful skill to have later on when you are graphing polynomials and want to easily convert to vertex form.

Playing with squares and radicals are also fun math activities where you can compound the lessons and learn algebra, addends, multiplication, square roots and more. You decide the emphasis depending on the student. For some older students who are supposedly past addition and multiplication because of their age you can use these techniques for remedial math without them even knowing it.

Instead I gave him x² + 10x + 24 which he got pretty easily but then I gave him x² + 11x + 24, which is a challenge at this age when they are still learning their times tables.  You can see he figured out he needed 8 and 3 to make it work.
Then I gave him a challenge.  x² + 11x + 30...the dilemma after he figured out it was going to be (x+5)(x+6) was finding enough fives or sixes....they were being used in the pyramid...and he found that he could count by 5's but not by sixes as easily...remember this boy is 6 years old, he hasn't mastered his 6 times tables yet but he will....and there won't be tears or frustration. It will be part of fun memories spent playing with his mom instead of being angry at his teacher because of yet another worksheet.
After a little fooling around he decided to make 30 with 6's...which meant he was going to have to bust up his pyramid.
Completing the corner was important to him, later you will find students especially older students who know their times tables skip putting the units in because they already know 5x6...and that 5x6 is the same as 6x5...when they are younger this is still a fun discovery.
Challenge completed! It's time for some celebration which is where we came in. Also some high fives with mom never hurt nothin'.
This lesson took place way back in the beginning of October. Just got around to finishing it here.  In this hour we basically practiced math facts in a very disorderly fashion...we didn't just do a bunch of addition or subtraction for an hour. We did both AND we did multiplication and some division AND we factored polynomials but the algebra was just along for the you can see it wasn't scary or hard and I used it to teach concepts and facts...most teen-agers I know FAIL algebra right at this point because they don't understand the distributive theory and never saw a polynomial until they were 12 or 13 years old...
Positive memories and positive associations with math are so important i don't have words. Wouldn't you rather have your child's or student's early childhood math experience be like this instead of rife with tears and frustration? They won't all be diamonds but more often than not you will find YOU the parent or teacher can make math fun and teach a whole lot of math all at once in compound lessons like this.

Want to get the materials you see in this blog post? GO HERE.

Want a FREE PDF of the polynomials that cover the 45 addends and the multiplication facts that go with them?  Click here: POLYNOMIAL PDF

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