I just had a really fun (and mostly productive) Friday afternoon with my Grade 7's! :) We had been working on drawing and solving some simple algebra balances, and I wanted to give them a bit more practice without it being too boring on a Friday afternoon.
This is how I structured it:
* Each kid gets a strip of one equation. They take a sheet of scrap paper and draw the balance scale that corresponds to that equation (They can ask me for help, of course, but NOT for me to see if it's correct).
* They go tape their algebra scales up around the room. (The kids were very silly about this; they taped them on all kinds of surfaces like the fan, the clock, and our lights.) The equation is written above the picture in nice, big letters with markers.
* They go stand in front of a scale that's not theirs and double-check the balance scale that has been drawn, fixing it if necessary. (I should have had them rotate once more to get a second look, but all of the mistakes except for 1 were caught.) When/if in doubt, I went over and took a look myself before they made any changes to the already-drawn scales.
* I handed out an answer sheet with the equations written on it. They are to roam around the room and find the balances that have already been drawn, and then solve them. Some of them are easier to solve than others; some of them required the kids to copy down the balance in order to work it out. (Each equation had a number/index, to make it easy for us to go over the answers in the end.)
* Since some of the kids were absent today, we needed to do two rounds of this in order to finish all the equations. The second time they sat down to draw the balances, they worked in pairs to make sure their drawings were definitely correct.
In the end, I went over the answers and asked the kids if they had questions, and everyone said that they understand the concept (but made some arithmetic mistakes)!! :) :) SCORE. It is a shame that some of my kids were absent today because of a soccer tournament, so next week I'll still have to think of a way to help those kids bridge their understanding gap. But, I think today was a very smooth run!!
Here is the material, if you wish to do this. Notice that I intentionally included parentheses into every problem; I really wanted kids to be able to see 5(x + 2) as drawing x and +2 each five times. I also threw in some "no solutions" and "all solutions" ones in there; the kids particularly liked those. :)