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Algebra Tiles

Manipulative Portfolio - Entry 1

Aurora Turmelle
Grade Range: 6th to 12th.

Algebra Tiles are color coded manipulatives (shaped like

squares and rectangles) that can be used to express various
algebraic function, ranging from pre-Algebra to Algebra II.

Specifically, rectangles are used to represent variables (i.e

“x”), and are red and green in color. Green represents a
positive variable, and red represents a negative variable.
Squares, on the other hand, represent constants (i.e “1”),
with yellow being positive, and red being negative.
Connection to Research
Results of Using Algebra Tiles as Meaningful Representations of Algebra

This article discusses the impact that Algebra Tiles (physical manipulatives) play in
student’s understanding of Algebra, and their perception of their ability to solve
problems. Since often times manipulatives are underused in secondary classrooms, this
article explores the impact that Algebra Tiles have on students’ learning. Specifically,
this article details that, though Algebra Tiles are great for helping students visualize
the math they’re doing, it doesn’t not have an impact on grades. However, Algebra Tiles
offer students a toolset they can use to solve problems, which can lead to increased
grades. Further, this article details that, after continued use of Algebra Tiles in
conjunction with their math classes, students begin to feel more confident in their
ability to solve problems, as the new skill they learned through its use allowed them to
visualize and better understand what they are trying to solve for.
Common Core State Standards
Apply the properties of operations to generate equivalent expressions.

Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem, and construct simple
equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.

Solve linear equations with rational number coefficients, including equations whose solutions require
expanding expressions using the distributive property and collecting like terms.

Solve linear equations and inequalities in one variable, including equations with coefficients represented
by letters.
Instructional Procedure
1. Introduce Algebra Tiles to the class, and explain their purpose of being a
physical representation of variables and constants.
2. Demonstrate in front of the class what each piece represents, and how to use
them to depict a [set of] linear equations.
3. Guide students through solving linear equation; demonstrate how to represent
the equation while having the students do the same with their own set.
4. Put a [practice] set of equations on the board for students to independently
recreate with their set of Algebra Tiles, and to solve for. During this time,
the teacher should monitor student understanding by moving around the room and
checking in with students.
5. After students have worked on their practice problems independently, introduce
students to the online Algebra Tile manipulative, how to use it, and how to
access it from home.
Technology Applications

Here are two videos demonstrating how to use Algebra Tiles!

Technology Applications Cont.
From the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics, this online Algebra Tile
manipulative is a great tool for
students to use if they don’t have
access to a physical set of tiles. Also,
this is a great alternative if teachers
either don’t have tiles, or don’t have
enough sets. Further, this online
manipulative gives student the option of
using virtual tiles over physical (as
may be their preference), and could act
as an alternative for students who may
struggle with fine motor skills.
Assessment Methods
Algebra Tiles can be used as a formative assessment, in which the teacher can
check students progress by monitoring their understanding of Algebraic
functions during class time. By providing various types of Algebraic problems
for students to work on, the teacher can observe understanding by doing
frequent check-ins with students to ensure correctness and accuracy, to
discuss their strategy for solving the problems while they use the tiles, and
to help students develop confidence in their ability to solve algebraic

Further, students could make video recordings of themselves using the

manipulative to solve various kinds of problems, in which they explain how to
use the manipulative, and their strategy for solving problems using the
Personal Experience
Though I did not use these when I was learning Algebra, I really wish I would have!
As a visual learning, I sometimes have a hard time to figure out why the teacher is
doing something, or where they came up with a number (especially when they skip
steps). Therefore, I feel that Algebra tiles will make a great addition to any
Algebra class, as they allow students to physically see and manipulate the
relationship between balancing equations, the relationship of adding and subtracting
negative numbers, as well as the importance of ratios.

In the future, I can see myself using Algebra Tiles as a fun way to first introduce
the topic of linear equations, as it can sometimes be difficult for students to
understand what individual parts of an equation mean. Further, I would like to have
them be a rolling option for students to use when dealing with equations, as solving
for x gradually becomes more difficult, and I feel that having access to something
they understand and have worked with previously can help clear up any confusion as
to how do the math.
Balka, D. S., & Boswell, L. (2017). Working with Algebra
Tiles: Grades 6-12. Rowley, MA: Didax Educational

[Photograph of foam Algebra Tiles]. (2018). Retrieved from

Sharp, Janet M. (1995, October). Results of Using Algebra

Tiles as Meaningful Representations of Algebra Concepts.
Retrieved January 26th, 2019, from