Engaging students: Solving one- or two-step inequalities

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Michelle Contreras. Her topic, from Algebra: solving one- or two-step inequalities.

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A.2 How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

One way that I could create an activity for my students is by modifying a worksheet that I’ve seen around the internet and make it something enjoyable and engaging for students. The original worksheet is called “Who broke the Vase?” from teacherspayteachers.com and the students are supposed to solve the one and two step inequalities and match the answer with the letter of the question to figure out who broke the vase. The students are to cut the lettered puzzle and match them to the answer. I believe tweaking this worksheet and make it a group scavenger hunt activity will be a good idea because the students will be split into a group of 3 or 4 and each group will have particular letters assigned to solve.

The scavenger hunt will be around the class so the students have an opportunity to work with other students but also to walk around and be active. I will have the lettered puzzle cut into pieces so each group can match their answerers to a letter and put it up in the overhead so everyone can see everyone else’s answers and progress. I believe this 20 minute activity will be best used after a lesson in one or two step inequalities giving the students an opportunity to work with their peers, to ask questions, and to address any misconceptions. This gives the teacher an opportunity to clarify ideas and to see how well students are understanding inequalities.


green lineB.1 How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Having a good understanding on how to solve for one or two step inequalities is an important skill to acquire. There are many classes that use this concept of inequalities over and over again, so if the foundation of this topic is not set right other math topics and concepts may not make sense. Personally I have made use of my knowledge of inequalities in calculus 1, solving for inequalities trying to prove limits and the squeeze theorem. Last semester in real analysis class there was a theorem called the triangle inequality which just by the name you have an idea of what it’s about. The theorem compares the sum of two lengths of a triangle to the length of the third side. Talking with your students about different instances that you will come across a certain topic may help them want to learn and gain a better understanding.
Comparing inequalities and equations is important and helps the students draw connections and remember better what to do since the properties of inequalities are very similar to equations. Stressing to your students that when you divide by a negative number on both sides that you should always flip the sign is essential. Students struggle to remember this properties since with equations you normally don’t do anything when you divide by a negative number. Having all the properties imbedded into your student’s memory will benefit them and prepare them for the future.

green lineE.1 How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

You Tube in my opinion has great learning videos, which are a great tool for the classroom. Most often than not I refer to You Tube to get a deeper understanding about a topic, even more now that I’m in college. Searching for inequality videos that would be engaging was a pretty tough because I was looking for a precise video that was not only educational but I guess “fun” to watch. The video that I believe is a great tool for the students who are trying to remember all the rules for solving inequalities is called “Inequalities Rap”. This video makes reference to a show that I used to watch when I was little “Power Puff Girls” so automatically it grabbed my attention.
The video which was made by a group of students for a math project contains the voices of the actual students rapping about the properties of inequalities and going over the steps to solve one or two step inequalities. The video is just short of 2 minutes and is very enjoyable to watch which I believe will grab the students attention since there is some rapping/singing involved. I could also ask my students to memorize all the lyrics to the rap song and rap it to the entire class if their up for it. Giving those particular students 5-6 free homework passes that could be used throughout the year.

“Who broke the vase?” https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Solving-One-Step-Equations-Fun-Engaging-Worksheet-Activity-124604

“Inequalities Rap” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpWm_wL73LY






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