Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Can You Help Me with an Algebra 1 Sequencing Project?

I created a checklist style review guide for my Algebra 1 students at the midpoint of the course several years ago. Over the years, I have reviewed and revised this study sheet multiple times… tweaking phrasing and sequencing, but also changing my mind again and again about what is (or is not) a basic skill in a beginning algebra class. Recently, I took the leap and created the second half: committing myself to a firm opinion about the essential nature of 55 basic algebra skills. The problem is that every time I pick it up, I find something else that I want to change. It is becoming an albatross for me, and so this is where I could use your help. Take a look and let me know what you think. Look at language, sequencing, design, etc. Did I miss something important or include something they already mastered (or are not ready for)? I really want it to be great, but have become overwhelmed in my solitude.

If you click on the image of the study guide, you will be directed to a site where you can upload it for free*. (*This project has been completed, and the free version is no longer available on the site.) As you read through this study guide, please bear in mind my goals/objectives for this type of algebra review guide:

  • The individual skills are meant to highlight the essential tasks that an Algebra 1 student should have mastery of. I firmly believe that good algebra teaching revolves around problem solving and applying multiple skills to illustrate, communicate, generalize and verify solutions to problems. I have purposefully left off any topics that I consider to involve multiple skills and the critical thinking of deciding which methods are appropriate and useful. I lovingly refer to the chosen topics as our ‘bag of tricks,’ or the tools from which we pull from to solve problems.
  • I have tried to include only topics that are learned in an Algebra 1 class (and not earlier) although there are a few that I have found to be so essential that they bear highlighting again (like order of operations, graphing points on coordinate plane, and properties of real numbers).
  • I have attempted to order the skills according to my best sequence of instruction, but I have found that there are some that tend to bounce all over the place. Ratios, proportions, and cross products, for example, have felt comfortable to me in many different locations in the course. The same is true of datasets and statistical analysis. Bear in mind that this is meant to be a cumulative review and not necessarily a course outline. For example, I thought it best to group box plots with scatter plots on the study guide even though I don’t necessarily teach them at the same time.
  • The code after the topic name is my newest attempt to align this sheet with the Common Core Standards. If you are a Common Core expert, I would greatly appreciate fact checking and additional input with this alignment.
  • The last two columns are intentionally blank, to provide teachers the flexibility of aligning the guide with their class textbook and supplementary materials. I go back and forth on the usefulness of this.

Thank you for your assistance with this project. I will happily share the final results with you.


  1. I love it! The only thing I didn't see was graphing parallel and perpendicular lines. I saw where you included solving systems by graphing, but what about including solving with elimination and/or substitution? We also cover systems of inequalities.

    I really like the concept that I could give this as a pre- mid- post- assessment. It sets up perfectly for intervention for missing skills...

  2. Lisa, Thanks so much for the feedback. I definitely need to add something about parallel and perpendicular lines, probably after #10. Any suggestions on the phrasing? How about "Identifying parallel and perpendicular lines," or "Recognizing parallel and perpendicular properties from slopes?"

    Systems of equations are covered in depth in items 18-23, including substitution and elimination, and systems of inequalities is covered in #28. I think perhaps the fact that those topics are separated by a couple of other skills can be confusing though. Perhaps I should rethink the order.

  3. I absolutely loved your idea of the check boxes. It's an easy way for students to know where they need more practice or tutoring. I have used your basic template to create one for each of my classes (Algebra 1 and Geometry). Next week, the kids will get a copy to start preparing for their end of course exams.

    Thanks again!! Tori