Explaining Your Steps

This year I am co-teaching an SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) College Prep Algebra 1 course. It is comprised of 16 students, from grades 9-12, whose first language is either Spanish or Portuguese. Most are currently at Wida Level 1 or 2. A few of these students attended 8th grade in our district last year, but the majority moved to America after January 2016. Due to the wide range of math and language abilities, my co-teacher and I are trying to find a balance between teaching new skills, remediating basic math skills, and teaching appropriate vocab/language.

We started the year with simplifying expressions using the order of operations and then moved onto solving equations. One structure we have developed is to have students solve a problem, and then explain the steps they followed. We provide transition words, sentence frames, and an example, so that students have a starting point. After students solve and write about their process, we pair them up and have them practice reading aloud their explanations. We also tried have half the room solve #1, and the other half solving #2, then pairing them and explaining a problem the other student had not solved yet, with the goal being that they could still understand. Both ways seemed to work equally well and I think we will continue to experiment as the year goes on.

I really like this structure as I think it is making students feel more confident in their solving ability as well as their understanding of these math phrases. We say them aloud all the time in class, so it’s important that students recognize them when they are spoken, and can implement them as well.

Here are the handouts:


PDF Version. DOCX Version.


PDF Version. DOCX Version.

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2 thoughts on “Explaining Your Steps

  1. Love this. All of it. How did teaching order of operations go? (We’ve always run into trouble with it, but we don’t really teach it explicitly, so…) Also, having students explain things to each other is the strategy I didn’t know I needed. It makes them speak so much English!

    • Thanks, Nick! Teaching order of ops went… okay. It’s not technically an explicit standard in Algebra 1 for us either, but we decided we needed to teach it after a quick pre-assessment showed most didn’t know the steps. I made a notes page modeled after Sarah’s PEMDAS graphic organizer (http://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2012/08/order-of-operations-pemdas-foldable-and.html) but replaced the P with G for grouping symbols. I’m really glad we took the time to teach it, as their skills definitely improved, but we are going to keep cycling back to it throughout the year (probably in our warm ups). I also sheltered a good order of ops open response question that I will post soon.

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