# Playing with Blocks

Warm up: some students multiply numbers in their head by visualizing rectangles. Examples: 14×15=100+40+50+20=210   40   20   4   14   10   100   10   15   50   5   so  16×23=200+120+  ___  +  ___  =_______   6   16   10   200   20   23   Draw  a  picture  of  32×26  OR  figure  it  out  in  your  head  using  this  idea.   3   120

Background: Some teachers wanted a way to picture or visualize algebra. So they took the idea above to invent Algebra Blocks. (Also called Algebra Tiles.) The idea is not that you’d use these blocks your whole life, but that they can help you understand the symbols and the ideas better if you can picture them. Two related questions here: What  does  this  have  to  do  with  the  multiplying  stuff?     Why  is  x2  a  square  and  x  a  stick?   x2   x   1

Use: Mathematicians take ideas like “take a number, double it, and add 3” and put it into symbols: 2x+3. Now we can also put it into blocks.
What  would  the  symbols   for  this  be?

How  would  you  draw   2x2+x+3?

How do you deal with negative numbers, though? Some blocks will have two colors, or flip to be a different color, but most blocks use a map with a positive side and a negative side.

−   +   How  do  you  write  this  with   symbols?

−   Build  –x2+2x−1

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How  do  you  write  this  with  symbols?       If  you  take  a  number  and  add  1  and  then  subtract  1,  there’s  no   change.    So  we  can  think  of  some  of  those  positive  and   negatives  cancelling  out.    What  would  that  leave?

(Mathematicians call that simplifying an algebraic expression.) Problems to try: try to do theses with the blocks and record in symbols. Some of these might be hard to think about how to show with the blocks, since we’re trying something new. 1) Simplify x2+2x−3+2x−1 2) Simplify 2x+4−x−5+x2 3) Add (x2+2x−3)+( x2+3x+2) 4) Add (-2x−3)+( -x2+3x−2) 5) Subtract (x2+2x−3)−( x2−2) 6) Subtract (x2−4x+1)−( -2x−2) Pick one of the problems to explain how you did it, in your own words.

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Block Challenge But we started with multiplication, and that’s when the blocks get really interesting. Mathematicians use this picture to prove that (x+1)(x+2)=x2+3x+2. How does this picture show that?

What  does  this  picture   show?

+   −   What  does  this  picture  show?!

What  does  this  picture  show?    Why  do  you  think  so?         How  would  you  simplify  the  result?    What  would   mathematicians  say  this  picture  proves?         +     −     Problems to try: try to do theses with the blocks and record in symbols. Some of these might be hard to think about how to show with the blocks, since we’re trying something new. 1) Multiply (2x+1)(2x+1) 2) Multiply (x+2)(x−3) 3) Can you make a rectangle out of x2+6x+9? 4) Can you make a rectangle out of x2+x−6? (Tricky. Requires unsimplifying.) 5) Make a rectangle of your own. What multiplication does it show? 6) Can you find a set of blocks that makes two different rectangles? What are the two different multiplications you can show with those blocks. −   +   Pick one of the problems to explain how you did it, in your own words.