Saturday, March 3, 2012

Going Sloooooooow on Exponent Rules

One thing that always troubles me is that many students tend to want to rush to draw procedural generalizations before they reach a solid conceptual understanding. What this means is that in two weeks, when I'm not standing in front of them, they do not remember how to properly apply the rules and cannot even retrieve the relevant concepts to re-engineer those rules! argh.

This year, for teaching exponents, I am going to sloooooooow them down to try to avoid that.

Here is my attempt at pulling together a worksheet on exponents (which, granted, isn't the most exciting of topics). Check it out - I like this worksheet and think it will work pretty well, even though everything in it looks very basic. We need to build sloooow conceptual understanding, and after that we will drill the rules using some games!

Addendum March 14, 2012: This lesson (parts 1 and 2) worked like a charm today!! I am feeling extremely positive about the outcome. The students could explain to me with NO PROBS WHATSOEVER why when you add or subtract terms with exponents, the resulting exponents don't change, but when you multiply them, they do change. My faster students were finished with the entire worksheet and did not have any misunderstanding at the end. They're ready for Phase 2: simplification drill games!!


  1. I've thrown together some exponent materials. I've been playing around a lot with how to teach this topic and I'd love any comments or suggestions you'd have on what I've put together. I have some worksheets similar to yours, but I think I went even more slowly than you're going. I'm not quite sure how slow is too slow or how fast is too fast. I've had more luck this year than I did last year and I've gone more slowly this year- but students still make mistakes with the rules.

  2. I love this - I am just beginning polynomials and exponents with 9th grade algebra repeaters (failed the first term and retaking it). Would you be willing to share your document?

  3. Yeah, it's here.

    By the way, is your blogger name possibly a reference to the fantastic Coney Island MERMAID PARADE?!?!?!

    1. Sort of, but it is also a reference to a snow sculpture of a mermaid I found in Prospect Park several years ago, when I was creating this user name. (I'd share the photo if I knew how...)