I love using Solve Me Mobiles with my students especially as we work on solving equations. This year I decided to dig a little deeper into the mobiles to see how I could facilitate more discussion around the thinking used to solve mobiles (which students always engage in) and connecting it to the algebraic work required in class (which some students don't understand or engage in).
The Open Up Resources curriculum has some great lessons that use the hanger model. If you haven't already you should check them out. Along with that I found the book Making Sense of Algebra on my shelf. Probably something I bought pre-Covid thinking I would have time. It is a great read. It focuses on Habits of Mind, much like math practices, that should be developed so students are successful in Algebra. One of the chapters, Solving and Building Puzzles, discusses the Solve Me Mobiles. The book explains that puzzles help build stamina because of the little wins that students get along the way. That explains why students are more likely to engage in the Mobiles than in an algebra problem. The mobile is easily accessible to all students and those with low math confidence don't look at it and immediately shut down like they might be inclined to do with an algebraic equation. The mobile allows us to transition the students to the algebraic notation that is presented in the mobile. What really resonated with me when reading was the statement that we need to make the logic explicit. Students are doing the thinking, but how can we take a step back and really help them think about what they are doing and how that thinking is algebraic in nature.
So these were my 2 goals:
1. transition to algebraic notation
2. draw attention to the logic and reasoning being used
After using the 6th grade Open Up Curriculum with hanger models, I pulled this problem from the 7th grade curriculum.
This was such a good conversation that I added another mobile for my groups tomorrow.