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National Curriculum – Year 6 Algebra
In your students final year of primary education, a new topic year 6 algebra is introduced. Let’s make that introduction a little easier with these top tips for teaching algebra!
Top Tip 1 - Using Visual Representations
Creating visual representations of the problem being solved can help students to understand what algebra actually is and what steps they need to take to begin solving the question.
The best part about bar models is that they can be adapted for both simple and more complex questions, thus can be used for all levels of understanding when teaching year 6 algebra!
Example Visual: Bar Models
This bar model represents the simple equation 2x = 10. Using the bar model, students can clearly see that to solve this they would need to divide 10 by 2 to find x.
As you can see from the example above, bar models can help students visualise the problem they are solving, making it easier for them to work out. Getting students to create the bar models on their own from the question is also an effective way of gaining their understanding of year 6 algebra!
Bar models are a great way of helping students get used to using simple formulae and enables them to express missing number problems algebraically.
Top Tip 2 - Using Shapes!
Using shapes to represent values in a year 6 algebra problem helps students to begin thinking algebraically, without the initial confusion of letters and numbers.
Using this example, students would be required to work out the value of the red triangle in each sum. This allows them to begin thinking algebraically, as they are working out an unknown value (which would normally be represented as a letter) from the values which they have already been given. This is a fun way of getting students to express missing number problems algebraically. This method of using shapes to represent values can be increased in complexity by having two unknown values instead of one. These would have to be kept the same throughout in order for the students to work it out.
Top Tip 3 - Arithmetic Sequence Starters
Using easy linear number sequences as a starter activity will help students gain some confidence before getting into some of the trickier algebra questions. The example to the right would require students to work out the next term in the sequence. To increase the difficulty of this task, students would be asked to find the nth term of each sequence.
As shown in the example above, students will be acquiring the skill to generate and describe linear sequences, which is a requirement of the national curriculum for year 6 algebra. This is a key base skill to learning and understanding algebra.
Top Tip 4 - Group Work!
Getting students to work together on solving equations can motivate them to work harder and encourage them to keep trying! A good group activity is the hexagon calculation game, which requires students to roll a dice and whatever number is shown on the dice is the value of n. The student that rolled the dice gets to choose a hexagon (which contains an algebra problem) to solve. The student that solves the most hexagons wins!
The example below shows what your students would be doing:
As you can see from the example above, your students will be working through a range of algebra problems with varying difficulty. This challenge allows pupils to work together and have fun with year 6 algebra!
Top Tip 5 - Show Every Step!
When learning year 6 algebra it’s important for students to see every single step involved in solving the problem. Teaching students to write down each step in their books and show you their working out allows them to clearly see the process that they’re being taught.
An excellent benefit of this (especially as it gets more difficult) is that you can see in which stage of the question a student may have gone wrong. This means that you can identify the issue and help the student accordingly.
As the teacher, you could demonstrate this by going through example questions on the whiteboard. This way you can clearly show the class the correct way to work out more complex problems. Another way to encourage them to show step by step working out is to award extra marks for each step!
As shown in the example above, each step is written down. The pupil shows all their working out, making it easy to mark and identify any potential mistakes!
Top Tip 6 - Use Engaging Videos
Using educational videos is a fun and easy way of explaining topics to students. If some students are struggling to understand algebra, having someone else explain it in a different way is often an effective method of increasing their understanding. Sometimes hearing it explained it a new way is what helps the topic click!
The video above is a really good introduction to algebra and goes over all the fundamentals that are needed in year 6 algebra! Videos like these are perfect for engaging students in a more relaxed and fun way.
Top Tip 7 - Using Number Riddles
Number riddles are a fabulous way of making year 6 algebra fun, whilst also keeping students engaged! The prospect of solving the riddle keeps pupils motivated when doing algebra (which is normally an unpopular topic). Using fun activities like this encourages students to view algebra in a more positive way, thus helping them learn.
As you can see from the example above, using riddles is an enjoyable method for getting students to engage with algebra’s trickier content. Solving both an algebra equation and a riddle is a fun challenge for pupils. This is a versatile activity and can be used in many different topics. If students enjoy it, it’s an excellent activity to implement into your lessons! A great site for more year 6 algebra activities is NCETM.
Top Tip 8 - Using Emile!
Emile is a game-based learning app for schools and homes. Emile has an engaging story that students will LOVE! One example of the games made for learning year 6 algebra is the Rating game, which allows students to go through questions at their own pace and unlock new clothes for their tamagotchi.
Each student has their own tamagotchi which they can feed, play with and grow as they unlock more levels. This encourages and motivates students to continue through their learning in a fun way! Each student will be automatically allocated the right work, ensuring their progress!
To the left you can see another example of what Emile has to offer when learning and teaching year 6 algebra. By signing up for a demo, you can see what Emile has to offer you and how it can help your pupils achieve more!