The tiles can be used in a wide range of ideas from counting, area, perimeter, arithmetic, through to solving equations, factorising quadratics, algebraic long division and simultaneous equations. In this blog, I will look at a small number of uses that have been helpful in introducing teachers to the use of Algebra Tiles.
It should be noted that Algebra Tiles have been used in the mathematics classroom for many, many decades (I recall many lessons as a child using the tiles myself) and that this blog is not meant as a comprehensive description of their use. It should also be noted that Algebra Tiles are simply one representation of some ideas in a wide range of representations. The intention is not to replace ways of teaching ideas by the exclusive use of Algebra Tiles, rather it is to augment the teacher’s current multiple representations with another model and another way of discussing and thinking about ideas. The physical nature of the Algebra Tiles makes them easy to manipulate – that is, to change mathematical systems and structures easily and witness the impact of doing so. However, it is not the intention that pupils are then expected to work with Algebra Tiles whenever faced with the ideas outlined here. The use of the tiles is one step in a scaffold towards efficient, symbolic representations and a way of convincing pupils to accept an abstract idea.