Math = Love: Organizing Algebra Tiles

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Organizing Algebra Tiles

So, I've decided that the reason #Teach180 is working for me is that it seems doable.  I can post one picture a day.  I can write a caption.  Most days, there are multiple pictures I could post.  I teach three preps, and each prep is usually doing something unique.  I just pick one of the neat things we did and post it.  There's no need to be comprehensive.  For me, #Teach180 is not about chronicling every thing I do in my classroom.  Instead, it's my effort to stay plugged into the #MTBoS every day.  I learn so much from twitter.  But, it's usually the first thing that starts to slide when life gets busy.  I know I'm a better teacher for those interactions with my tweeps, though.

For the next few days, I'm going to try to approach my blogging in a similar manner.  I usually blog a comprehensive idea at a time.  For example, I usually blog an entire unit's worth of notebook pages at a time.  What happens when I don't have a picture of one of the pages?  That blog post gets put off and may never actually happen.  I keep getting e-mails from people asking where the rest of my Algebra 1 INB pages from last year are.  Well...this girl is a perfectionist.  And, they're not perfect nor complete.  And, that's kept me from writing those posts.  I need to get over my perfectionism and get to blogging.

Shorter, Incomplete Posts > Perfect Posts that Never Happen  

That's going to be my blogging motto for this year.  Hold me to it, guys.

Today's Incomplete Idea:  Algebra Tile Storage

I got a classroom set of algebra tiles this year.  I'm excited to use them to illustrate factoring, distributing, completing the square, and combining like terms this year.  I tried using algebra tiles cut out of card stock one year.  That was a disaster.  Oh my goodness.  Little bits of paper.  Everywhere.

Each set came in a zip-top baggy.  But, I know my students.  Ziplock baggies somehow have a way of getting destroyed in my classroom.  Or they get tossed back in the bin without being zipped up properly.  [Though, Ziplock Baggies > Rubber Bands.  I learned that the hard way with my first day of using conic cards...]

I want these resources to be easily accessible to students whenever they need them.  I want them to stay organized, too.

I saw a pin where an elementary teacher was storing base 10 blocks in tupperware-style containers that were divided into sections.  I pinned it thinking I should do something of the sort with my algebra tiles.

While in Dollar Tree, I saw sandwich containers that were 3 for a dollar.  They're not divided into sections, but the price is definitely right!  I'm going to put two sets of algebra tiles in each container.

My desks are arranged in groups of four, so this will let my students share easily with their partner that is next to them or across from them.

Here's what two sets in one container looks like.  

My thoughts: students can dig around in the container without dumping the contents of the bag on their desk.  Less dumping should mean less pieces on the floor.  And, I hope that making sure the lid is snapped on well comes more easily than making sure the bag is zipped properly.

I could probably put a table's worth of pieces in each container, but I'm hoping that doing containers by each pair will increase participation of ALL students.

Warning: I haven't actually used the containers with students yet.  This idea is completely untested.  So, if you have what you think is a better solution, please share in the comments!  I may be needing it...


  1. Many of my previous posts usually involved a few hours of work but I've set a goal to blog at the end of each week, which means I have to be ok with them not being the most polished pieces.

    Was planning on getting algebra tiles. I have relatively small classes (less than 20). Where did you get yours and how many did you get?

    I reflected on my first week :) Feel free to read at

    1. I got a class set from EAI Education. I think it has ~30 sets?

      Looking forward to reading your reflections!

  2. I love the sandwich container idea! I had a colleague suggest numbering (or lettering) all the tiles in each set as you inevitably end up with a rogue piece on the floor. For example, all tiles in one container would have a 1 (or A) on them, as would the container itself. The next container would be labeled 2 (or B) and each tile within would have a 2 (or B) on it. Then if you find a stray tile at some point it can easily be returned to the correct container.

  3. I love algebra tiles! I have had my own set for a number of years. like you, theat stray piece ends up on the floor or the bag is not zipped. I have not found the perfect storage container yet. Since I moved to Vietnam, and space in suitcases is limited (I had 3 suitcases when I came......that was it) I have stored mine compactly in a shoebox. My students are very good about picking up the tiles that fall on the floor. I don't worry if the set is 100%complete. I just toss the little tiles (usually these are the ones that fall....) into a bag of tiles, or just in the box. Not the most effective, but whatever works!

    1. I can't imagine moving in just three suitcases! Packing for Australia was really hard this summer with just one suitcase. But, I was just vacationing. Not needing to pack classroom supplies!

  4. I love this storage idea, I need to get to a training how to use algebra tiles. I have had a class set for 3 years and have never used them. I know...a shame! I also have a several sets of 3 D algebra tiles that I inherited from a retiring teacher that I don't know how to use. By the way, I love shorter, incomplete blog posts...that is real life!

    1. You might do a search for a youtube video that explains how to use them. I'm sure they're out there! 3D algebra tiles sound fun!

  5. How will you account for ask the pieces that are suppose to be in each container?

    1. I'm not too worried about making sure they have the exact pieces in each box.