How To Teach Using Algebra Tiles Lesson 1: Integers

Please note: I am modeling each lesson in a classroom of profoundly gifted 5th and 6th graders that are not my students. The teacher of the class graciously allowed me to come in and teach my lessons at times that were convenient for my schedule. This is not my classroom and I met these students for the first time during this particular lesson. The amount of practice problems that I model and ask the students to complete is dependent on how quickly these students can understand the material (which is pretty quick considering their age and development). Each teacher may need to shorten or lengthen his/her practice time accordingly. Also, I have been given unlimited time blocks to teach each lesson, so this lesson may need to be spread over multiple days.


Outline of the Lesson

  1. Introduce Essential Questions and have students discuss.
  2. Explore tiles (play and discover) noting observations
  3. Red-negative and yellow positive (stress opposite)
  4. Integer continent story and introduction to additive inverse
  5. Begin with adding integers, modeling with tiles for each problem.
  6. Mix in subtract integers, showing how subtraction is the same as negative with modeling tiles.
  7. Students brainstorm different ways to say -6 – really focus on drawing out opposite, negative, and take away.
  8. Show subtracting a negative with tiles. Make sure note-maker is completely filled out.
  9. Have students develop the rules for adding/subtracting integers.
  10. Introduce area model of multiplication.
  11. Show multiplying and dividing integers and have students complete note-maker.
  12. Students complete the practice matrix.

Note to Teacher:

It is imperative that students practice with symbols as well as tiles. Developing the rules for operations on integers themselves is critical for developing Algebraic knowledge. Once the rules have been developed, students need to practice with symbols and check their answers with tiles.

Additional Recommended Practice:

I like to use as many visual and kinetic practice lessons for integers. Using a horizontal number line is important. Students should practice integer problems on the number line, so that they build number sense with regards to order. I also encourage teachers to use a vertical number line, not only because of the natural relevance to altitude and temperature, but it is a building skill for graphing on the Cartesian Coordinate Plane.

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