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 Jesus Alanis. His topic, from Algebra: solving one- or two-step inequalities.

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

As a teacher, the activity I would make so that this topic is more fun is by using the game battleship. When I was in school, learning this lesson for the first time, we did a gallery walk that you would solve for the solutions and would go searching for that solution. Well, you can use the same problems used in a gallery walk. All you would have to do is put it on a worksheet that could be half the solutions of the enemy’s problems and the student’s problems to work on. The student will place(draw) their “ship” on the enemy’s solution. With this activity, you can pair up students and make them go one by one, or since time may be an issue you can make it a race between the two students to see who sinks the opponent’s ships first.

I got the inspiration from here. https://www.algebra-and-beyond.com/blog/bringing-back-battleship

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

A brief history of inequalities is that the less than or greater than signs were introduced in 1631 in a book titled “Artis Analyticae Praxis ad Aequationes Algebraicas Resolvendas” created by a British mathematician named Thomas Harriot. An interesting fact is that the creator’s work and the book was published 10 years after his death. A shocking fact is that the actual symbols were created by the book’s editor. At first, the symbols were just triangular symbols that were created by Harriot which was later changed by the editor to what we now know as < and >. A fun fact is that Harriot used parallel lines to symbolized equality, but the parallel lines were vertical, not horizontal as we now know as the equal sign. In the year 1734, a French mathematician named Pierre Bouguer used the less than or equal to and greater than or equal to. Also, there was also another mathematician that use the greater than/ less than symbols but with a horizontal line above them. During these times, the symbols were not yet set in stone and were still being changed. The symbols were actually just triangles and parallel lines to symbolized greater than, less than, greater than or equal to, less than or equal to, and equal to.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

By using technology effectively with this topic, is that I found an online game that has the same idea of the battleship. The website is this: https://www.quia.com/ba/368655.html. The game is online so this is really good resource especially since we are in a pandemic but also an extra resource if the student needs more practice that they can do on their own. This is a good activity for students because I know that there are schools that have in-person classes so each student can use their own computer to prevent any more spreading of the virus while being in the classroom. There are also schools that have classes through Zoom and Google Classroom so they can add this online game as an assignment and make the students have them write down their questions and answers with their work to see the way they work the problems out.


  • Seehorn, Ashley. “The History of Equality Symbols in Math.” Sciencing, Leaf Group Media, 2 Mar. 2019, sciencing.com/history-equality-symbols-math-8143072.html.
  • Lythgoe, Mrs. “Two-Step Inequalities Battleship.” Quia, http://www.quia.com/ba/368655.html.

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