This lesson was influenced by an activity presented by Ann Lawrence at the 2007 California Math Council Conference at Asilomar. This lesson is about trying to get students to make connections between ideas about equations, inequalities, and expressions. The lesson is designed to give students opportunities to use mathematical vocabulary for a purpose to describe, discuss, and work with these symbol strings. In the process it is hoped that the students start to develop instincts about these symbolic, numeric strings like what a test question might be, what is the purpose of this type of string, and how is it different from other types of strings.
The idea is for students to start gathering global information by looking at the whole number string rather than thinking only about individual procedures or steps. Hopefully students will begin to see the symbol strings as mathematical objects with their own unique set of attributes. The lesson is designed to go across several standards in the algebra strand and to help students make connections across standards. The lesson also explores various pedagogical strategies aimed at getting more student involvement, particularly from the African American and Latino students to help close the achievement gap. Students first need to walk around the room and interact with each other to find people with similar symbol strings. Students are then asked to huddle at the board to discuss the various groupings. Cards are used for recording ideas so that they can be moved easily if different students want to make different connections. Students are then placed in groups to have deeper conversations. They are also given opportunities to write and reflect as the lesson progresses.