Math = Love: Factoring Flow Chart

## Wednesday, September 12, 2012

### Factoring Flow Chart

Factoring finally clicked for my college algebra students.  It was definitely a Hallelujah! moment.  The lowest grade on the factoring test was a 95.

I'm definitely not your typical math teacher.  When students ask for help during a test, I give it to them.  I work at a school where most of my students are years behind in math.  When they recognize that they need help and they make an effort to better understand the material, I am going to give them the help they need.

This meant that for some of my students I worked out a problem similar to #2 and #5 on the board.  I sat down by one student who was struggling and put smiley faces by the questions she had gotten correct (every one that she had attempted) to motivate her to keep working.

What helped my students most was having a factoring flow chart.  I spent a while searching the internet for one that matched how I had taught the different methods of factoring.

I finally found the perfect flow chart, however.  Here's the link.  By continually referencing it in class, students eventually began to use it on their own.  That's when the light bulbs finally started to go off.  Students started to think "I can do this" instead of "This is too hard."

And, I can say that this is the first time in my life that I have the formulas for factoring sum and differences of cubes memorized.  I've used it so many times of late, it's become ingrained in my memory.

One of my students even decided that we needed to make a giant version of the factoring flow chart to hang on the wall.  She wanted us to do this so we wouldn't always have to get out our copy.  I loved this idea, but creating the whole flow chart wasn't really feasible.  But, yesterday in class, we did make posters with the formulas for difference of squares, sum of cubes, and difference of cubes to brighten our walls.  And, I think my students will use them more since they helped create them.

1. How awesome is that feeling? I give help as well and work towards weaning them off as we get closer to state testing since I can't help them on that day.

I loved the link and forwarded it onto our Algebra teacher for use in her INBs as well as our district math coordinator.

2. Great insight about students using the posters since they helped create them. I noticed this in my classroom. When I first started teaching, I put up a lot of pre-made posters I bought at the teacher store. I noticed they made the walls look pretty, but that was about it. It wasn't until I started hanging posters that we made as part of my lessons that students started referring to them and talking about them. The best part is that the posters we make are waaaaay cheaper than buying a fancy poster at the store. :-)

3. I give help on Exams too! Sometimes all my students need is a little encouragement that they know the answer and a small point in the right direction is usually enough for it to click!