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# 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.