My first foray into equation strips was Miss Calcul8’s radical equation strips. I loved these–its a new and unfamiliar format of equations, but it helps students to see the parallels with solving any other kind of equation. Having all of the steps written out is a little like training wheels, so students feel more confident. I was even inspired to do more Equation Strips for both exponential and logarithmic equations.

I’m back to my Algebra 1 roots now though, and wrapping up linear equations. We had a lot of discussion around standard form–I come down firmly on waiting to teach students to convert standard form to slope intercept form. I recognize that standard form isn’t always friendly, but I’ve found in my Advanced Algebra classes that many students can’t graph at all from standard form. So they take forever switching over from standard to slope intercept form (possibly making some sign errors along the way) and THEN graph.

That said, standard form isn’t always the friendliest, and students do need to be able to convert to slope intercept form. For some reason, half of my students find this various straightforward and others find it baffling. Enter: Equation Strips. Each pair gets an envelope and separates the strips by color. Then in their starting color (these problems are all the same in difficulty but for simplicity you may want to tell everyone to start with blue) identify which strip has standard form on it and which has slope intercept form. Those will be your starting and ending strips. Then pairs should order the strips and check in with the teacher. When they’re right, copy the steps into your notebook, mix up the strips and start on the next color.

I included slope intercept to standard form as well, because I don’t want my students to have the idea that slope intercept is king and everything should be in that form–we should be able to change in both directions. I don’t expect all of my students to do these, but I want especially the faster finishers to recognize that both are important. (Oh and the very last one is super easy, but I left it in case anyone was interested.)

I copied the first sheet on two shades of purple and the second on two shades of blue. Then after cutting them in half, I shifted them by one so that each set got a light purple and a dark purple problem, same with blue and then yellow and pink for the SI problems. And then I realized that I should have done what I did with my radical equation strips and make half sets (so one purple and one blue) and just have pairs trade. Ah well!

I love that I’m not explaining anything and students are exploring on their own when we do these–and when I’ve done them in my Advanced Algebra classes I actually feel like it was faster than me giving notes and doing examples. I do still give some wrap up notes at the end for their reference, but they already have their examples done!

Where else could I use some equation strips? I want to make more now!