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. The site has been taken down, but I have uploaded the file here. 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.