Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How I Taught Absolute Value Equations This Year.

I'd like to share with you how my students learned about Absolute Value Equations this year.


...we started by playing The Absolute Value Equation game as a whole class.  This worked out well, because the students started class by taking a test on the previous topic and once they were all finished we played a few rounds as a whole class.  I split the class into 4-5 teams and they worked together on their turn.  This was a great way to explain the rules to the whole class at once.
Now that they know the rules, the next day I split the students into groups to play the game as a tabletop version.  This way, instead of teams, each person was playing against all the others at his table.

This is the first year the students played the game individually at tables rather than as a whole class.  They loved it.  Everyday since we played the game, they've been asking to play again.  I'm thrilled that they enjoyed the game so much.


...I lectured.  Yup, that's still important.  We talked about distance, absolute value, and subtraction.  I connected absolute value equations to the game and then connected it all to the solutions.  We solved absolute value equations algebraically AND graphically and compared the two methods.  


...we practiced.  I created 6 different stations for the students to work through. 

  • Card Sort
  • Worksheets
  • Challenge problems
  • Error Analysis
  • Educreations video
  • Play Absolute Value Equation game (optional)

To begin, I gave each student a copy of the stations/activities they needed to complete.  Click here for that.  

Card Sort:

For the card sort, I made 4 copies of them in 4 different colors, so that more than one person could be at this station at a time.  Click here for that.
I do give the answer key as well.  I found that most students are more interested in doing it themselves than cheating.


I created 3 different versions of the worksheet on math-aids.com.  Here is a link to that website.
Level 1 included "Monomial Expressions" and "Polynomial Expressions (no coefficients)".
Level 2 included all of Level 1 plus "Polynomial Expressions (with coefficients)".
Level 3 included all check boxes.

I included an answer key for all three levels at the station as well.

Surprisingly, the worksheet station was the most popular.  I guess that's what is most familiar to the students.

Challenge Problems:

I gave four challenging problems for the students to work through.  They are problems that we have not covered in class and asked students to dig a little deeper.  Click here for those.

I found that students were more willing to attempt and not give up on these challenging problems because there would be no punishment for being wrong.  And the reward was intrinsic.  I did include and answer key for all four problems at the station.  Most students did attempt the problem before looking and the answers.  Most.

Error Analysis:

This seemed to be new to students.  They wanted to just solve the problems on their own and then say, "The person should have done it like this."  They really struggled to find the error.  Click here for that.

Absolute Value Equation Game:

This station was optional since they have played this previously.  But, since the students enjoyed the game so much, why not?  You can read more about the game here.


We had some issues with the filter in my district, so we put off this station until after the test.  The requirements were that the video had to be under 5 minutes in length and it had to include solving simple absolute value equations by graphing, solving simple absolute value equations algebraically, and solving complex absolute value equation algebraically.    Below are some of examples of their work.

Here's an example of student work.  Absolute Value Equations.

The Exam:

Once I gave the students the exam it was just all too easy.  After the game, the lecture, the stations, the students were more than ready for this exam and it showed.  I had more students pass this year than in previous years.

What I Would Change:

  • I would change the worksheet.  I was running out of time and used a worksheet generator rather than creating my own problems.  Next year, I will create my own problems and worked-out solutions.  
  • The card sort was way too easy.  I would like to make one (or two) that are a little more challenging.  Such as blank cards that the students have to fill in.
  • I feel that I need to make the students more accountable during the stations.  A few students skipped some stations because they "didn't feel like doing them".  And those were the students who didn't pass the exam.  

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