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Great Factoring Activity #MTBoS

I struggle with teaching factoring to students because it can seem boring and some students “get it” and others have a huge challenge with understanding.  My Honors Geometry class integrates Algebra topics throughout in order to better prepare students for Pre-Calculus next year.  Factoring was the topic of last week.  I am not quite sure where the inspiration came from, more than likely a MTBoS blog somewhere on the internet, but I stumbled upon what might have been my favorite assignment with relation to factoring.  After a talk in class reviewing the topic (everything from finding factors, GCF, binomials, trinomials with leading coefficient >1, leading coefficient = 1, difference of squares) my assignment to students was this:

Create and factor three trinomials of your choosing.

That was it.  And it was AMAZING!  Seriously.

Students were determining on their own that some trinomials couldn’t be factored.  Students were finding the mistakes in their own work as they were checking their answers.  Some students determined that “doing it backwards” was a more efficient way to start, thus understanding the link between the factored and standard forms.  I was really amazed at how deep such a simple task could take my students and the level of engagement as well.  I am excited to try this sometime with my regular students as well.