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Mathematics Matters Lesson Accounts 21 - Collecting like Items and Understanding Algebraic Expressions

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 28 May 2008 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 16 June 2008 by ncetm_administrator

Mathematics Matters Lesson Accounts
A collection of memorable mathematics lessons that conference and colloquia delegates had observed or taught which they felt were successful.  Each account refers to one or more of the values and principles in the report.

Lesson Account 21 - Collecting like Items and Understanding Algebraic Expressions

Written by Janine Williams
Organisation Nottingham Trent University
Age/Ability Range Year 7 NC Levels 3-5

How was the session/task introduced?
The classroom was reorganised into 5 groups of tables and children directed to a particular table as they entered the room. Pupils were told that each group was going to answer the research question already placed on their table. They were told they would have to work together as a team and that they were to put their findings onto a poster. Towards the end of the lesson they were going to have to present their poster and findings to the rest of the class. They were told that each table had a different task.

The tasks were:

  1. What is the perimeter of this shape? (as seen above)
  2. What is an expression?
  3. What is an equation?
  4. What is the difference between an expression and an equation?
  5. Why is 4a different to a4?

Resources were general texts book available for their level, however to extended groups further there were higher level books for harder examples. This meant they had to understand the examples as they had to be able to explain to others and be questioned on the topics.

Resources were also taken from ‘Boardworks’, and ‘Ten Ticks’ worksheets.

How was the session/task sustained?
Each group was told that they would have 5 minutes at the teacher’s computer to help with their research and this was facilitated by the teacher.

Because of the complexity of the task (and shortness of the lesson, 50 minutes) groups had to discuss and decide which members of the group were doing what. (One student on computer one to gain further information on their topic, one to decide on main points, one to make poster and one who was going to present etc).

The teacher gave time targets and provided support where necessary.

How was the session/task concluded?
Each group in turn came out to the front and gave their report to the class, on average each presentation lasted around 3 minutes. The teacher put a few crucial points on the WB as teams were talking. Because the tasks were different there was no repetition.

What were the critical moments?
Excitement at change of room arrangement and ‘difference’ of task.

Initial reading of their task and sorting out how they were going to tackle it.

Moving from discussion to deciding what information was going to be put on the poster.

Deciding what was going to be said while poster was presented.

What mathematics was learnt? (on plan and off plan) and what is the evidence of learning?
This occurred on several different levels. Within groups they discussed and gathered evidence e.g. why equations and expressions are different from each other. What the perimeter of the square A was etc

They prioritised this evidence and made decisions on the best approach to solving their task.

When groups were presenting other groups listened carefully.

It was very noticeable that the group on Difference between an Equation and an Expression had a very active, vocal presenter who was emphatic in his demands that everyone in the class should know and understand what the difference was. His charisma generated laughter and a fantastic learning environment.

How was that mathematics learnt?

  1. The strategy of organising group discussion and feedback to the whole class meant additional evidence was generated by various means – prior knowledge, discussion, argument, external sources.
  2. The evidence was whittled down to the most important points – constrained by the size of the poster (A3).
  3. The need to present ‘correct’ information to the rest of the group.
  4. Other students’ reactions to the presentation.

Other memorable outcomes
The children had a great time. All were fully involved but able to determine their own level of input.


Downloadable PDF

Click here to download this lesson account in PDF format.

Values & Principles

Strategies for investigation and problem solving
Makes appropriate use of whole class interactive teaching, individual work and cooperative small group work

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