Learn To Reason Through Equations With Mystery Number Puzzles [Video]

Often, algebra students see equations and immediately turn to solving steps: What variable am I solving for? What can I do to both sides to simplify this equation? For students to develop a deep understanding and confidence when solving equations, however, it’s important for them to have other strategies for approaching them.

In Transition to Algebra, Mystery Number Puzzles are used specifically because they require students to reason through the meaning of the information being presented—they don’t lend themselves to a one-size-fits-all problem solving approach. Successful algebra students often use a strategy called chunking. In it, they use what they know about an equation’s structure and the algebraic properties involved to reason about the value of a chunk of information, working backward from there toward the value of a variable. Mystery Number Puzzles build scaffolding for students to develop this kind of thinking and build the logic for themselves.

Watch Jane Kang, one of the coauthors of the Transition to Algebra program, talk about how Mystery Number Puzzles are used to help students learn to reason through different kinds of equations.

To see more videos of Jane talking about Transition to Algebra’s unique approach to algebra instruction, please visit TransitiontoAlgebra.com.

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Transition to Algebra (TTA) grew out of an initiative of the Learning and Teaching Division at Education Development Center (EDC), an acclaimed curriculum development laboratory specializing in science and mathematics instruction. Building on EDC’s hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning, TTA uses algebraic logic puzzles and explorations to help students shift their ways of thinking from the concrete procedures of arithmetic to the abstract reasoning that success with algebra requires. Learn more.

The Power of Tailless and Headless Word Problems [Video]

Students are often seen simply as consumers of word problems. A word problem is presented with all of the necessary information already embedded in it. The student must interpret the problem, extract the key numbers, and solve. (And repeat the same process with the next word problem).

A more effective way to develop true mathematical understanding is to present word problems as authentically as possible. When word problems are authentic, their structure is different. Students are no longer passive consumers—there is transaction and interaction. All of the key information is not planted into the scenario. Because of this, students engage the problem differently, asking questions, testing ideas, and organizing what they think they know. They become producers of a mathematical language, developing along the way a depth of understanding often missed with traditional approaches to instruction.

Watch Jane Kang, one of the coauthors of the Transition to Algebra program, talk about the power of tailless and headless word problems, how they are used in Transition to Algebra to develop foundational algebraic understanding, and how you can begin using them in your classroom today.

To see more videos of Jane talking about Transition to Algebra’s unique approach to algebra instruction, please visit TransitiontoAlgebra.com.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Transition to Algebra (TTA) grew out of an initiative of the Learning and Teaching Division at Education Development Center (EDC), an acclaimed curriculum development laboratory specializing in science and mathematics instruction. Building on EDC’s hands-on, inquiry-based approach to learning, TTA uses algebraic logic puzzles and explorations to help students shift their ways of thinking from the concrete procedures of arithmetic to the abstract reasoning that success with algebra requires. Learn more.