I didn't know when this year started how much I'd be able to get through in my Integrated (think General) Algebra 1 course.

I think we all realize that every year (heck, every class!) is different. When I last taught the course (2 years ago) I had several boys who had failed CP Algebra 1 because they were self-admittedly lazy. Smart, but didn't do their homework. They helped me push the rest of the class because they would've been bored otherwise. Overall, my group was bright but majorly under-achieving.

This group has been different. We've been a slower-moving, needing-more-help class. Basic skills are a biiiig issue. But after practicing things over and over and over they get it, mostly. Does it stick? About as much as it sticks with other classes.

I had planned to start my exam review today with these guys. We officially have 6 school days until exams start and we had our last quiz yesterday. I checked out our list of topics for the past semester and decided I was going to re-think what I included on the exam.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff" and that's what I have decided to do. I'm not going to ask them to solve systems of equations. I'm not going to ask them to find the distance between two points. I'm going to stick to what I consider the basics of Algebra 1.

1. Solving equations (and inequalities)

2. Writing and graphing linear inequalities

3. Simplifying with exponents

4. Adding, subtracting, and multiplying polynomials

5. Factoring and solving quadratics

And, just to maybe help them feel more comfortable next year in Geometry,

6. Simplifying radicals

7. Pythagorean Theorem

I made reviews for each topic (the geometry stuff still needs to be put together) and copied them on bright orange paper. My hopes are that the color will remind them that these papers are important. But I'm sure I'll be picking these papers up off the floor after class...

There's only so much you can do.

(Totally off topic: We're celebrating the retirement of a fellow math teacher today after school. I'm totally envious.)

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