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Boring Lesson Made Fun: Color Wars

Last night I went to bed dreading my lesson plan for today's Algebra class. My agenda was going to say:
1. Go over homework
2. Notes: Standard Form Equations
3. Guided Practice: Standard Form Equations
4. HW: Worksheet on Standard Form Equations

Even with my cute stories and getting kids to do most of the talking and problem demos, my plan would have made for a boring day in math.

On the way to work this morning, I came up with a game. Since they already know how to manipulate an equation, instead of announcing a new form of a linear equation and lecturing on how to achieve this form, I gave them clues and made it a game.

Students worked in teams of 4. Each team used a different color of 3 by 5 cards (hence color wars and it also made sorting the results easier). Each group member had a job (which I made up while my first period class students were turning their desks).

I told them to rewrite the given equations according to the clues.

After the 2nd one, I added that x had to come first and be positive. There was a time limit. Students had to run their answers up. We went over each one. They were eager to see the answers. The buy in was great. 

The winning team got a prize. 

I overheard them teaching each other using correct vocabulary. I also overhead them debating and backing up their claims with evidence. We had fun and I am quite confident that they will be able to write equations in standard form on their homework. Maybe the bigger question here is, does this need to be taught? To me, making them use standard form is encouraging them to polish their work, familiarizing them with different formats and reinforcing how to manipulate an equation. Still, I couldn't start today's lesson with a problem to solve. I don't get to decide the curriculum but I do get to decide how to teach it and I am going for joyful!