Sunday, February 3, 2013

Splash Up Your Math Class Up With Theatre: Teaching Algebra With a Skit Option One

Theme for the Next 3 Blog Posts:
Hello All,
For the next 3 blog posts I am going to be offering you 3 options for presenting a skit in order to teach an Algebra lesson.  Never fear I will be touching on other subject-matter in future blogs, but I though mathematics was one that often is excluded from the arts.  

I will be evaluating each choice by the following three criteria and my research:

Three Criteria I am evaluating these options by:

  • Accessibility of resources:  
By this I mean how easy is it for teachers to access the materials necessary to teach the lesson.
  • Amount of student involvement:
By this I mean how much student involvement is offered in the presentation of the lesson.
  • Student learning style accommodations:
By this I mean to measure if the presentation accommodates a variety of different learning styles so that your students can learn and feel accepted in a safe, positive learning environment.  After all, everyone learns differently.


I will be using data I gained from the educational textbook/program called The Learning Classroom to confirm my reasoning behind the three options I am recommending to you.

For example:  For a refresher about different learning styles see below-->

As The Learning Classroom states, “Howard Gardener’s theory multiple intelligences includes: visual spatial learners, body-kinesthetic learners, naturalistic learners, verbal/linguistic learners, interpersonal learners, intrapersonal learners, logical/mathematical learners, musical learners, and existential learners.

This blog post will discuss the first option, which is to have the teacher present the skit to the entire class.

Option One: Teacher Presentation

How does a Teacher do it?
Hello my faithful blog viewers,
I have been thinking lately about some of the most challenging subjects for students.  I know for me, personally, I have always struggled with math.  There are complex formulas and concepts represented in this subject that can often go right over the students head, that is unless we can make the manner in which we, as teachers, present the material creative, interactive, and relatable.  

One way to do this is by introducing a lesson, lets say for Algebra in this scenario, using a skit. One method of presenting the skit is by the teacher performing it to the class.

  I know that theater and mathematics seem like polar opposites.  I also understand that the idea of combining the two subjects poses a challenge, but that does not always have to be so.

For example, the photo below is of a play called Eureka!, written by Shaun Wainwright-Branigan, which is about a student who is having trouble with math.  In true Christmas Carol tradition, right before an important test, she is visited by great mathematicians such as Albert  Einstein, Blaise Pascal, Lady Ada Lovelace and Pythagoras.  With their help she learns the importance of math in understanding the world.  If you want more information on this play go here:

Now, I'm not suggesting you put on an entire play of course, just a skit as I said, but that play is something to think about and maybe use some of it as a tool if you can find video clips of it online to encourage your students.

In any case, here are some steps you can follow that can help ease the struggle of turning math into theater.

  1. Lets establish the problem for our theoretical Algebra class to solve.  Here is the equation:
3x + 10 - 5 = 20

The students' objective is to isolate x and solve for the variable. 

2. Now that that is clear, the teacher, you, must prepare the lesson by bringing some important props with you to class:

  • hard paper/ large cue cards (even folder files cut in half would do)
  • markers 
  • string
  • hole punch 
  • granola bars
You should bring these materials with you and to make signs for each of the symbols in the equation.  You can either brings these and make them during lunch or your prep period or perhaps you want to make these at home and bring the signs to school already finished.  The granola bars are to be used to represent how many of each item each number has, so if you are portraying the number three, three has three granola bars and so on.  X can have a question mark drawn on the board over the card.  

At the end of the performance, you can hand out the granola bars to your students, of course you should bring extra to ensure that everyone in your class gets one.

3. At the beginning of the lesson, write this problem on the board and explain how to do the equation algebraically. 

  4. Then explain to the class that you will be presenting the lesson to them using these cards and granola bars.  It will be a visual representation which will reinforce the rules of equality that you have just taught them on the board.  

5. Next, there are two ways in which you can present the equation using the props.  The first is to go step by step putting on each sign and stating how many granola bars each has and acting out the subtraction, addition, and division that occurs while moving to different sides of the room.  I do not recommend this, however, because it is too complicated and can confuse the students, not to mention make this fun activity taxing for both you and your students.  

Instead, I propose the second way.  You can gesture to the different cards/signs and only play the role of the variable x throughout the equation.  X is of course the center of the equation because the goal is to solve for it. 

5.5 As you are doing step 5, the performance, you can ask what you, as X, should do next as well as check back with your students to make sure they are paying attention by asking them why you are moving the numbers to the other side of the equation.  Such as "Why do I have to add Mr.5 to twenty?".  

It may be cheesy, but as long as you don't show that it is cheesy then your students know you expect them to go along with the activity maturely.  You can say things like who is a happy number now?  And as you are calling on people to answer individually give them a candy bar and award the remaining students when you are done presenting.  The reward of a healthy snack should motivate them to get into the activity.  

*Suggestion: You can use this if you teach remedial math classes as well because this activity helps students break the problem down to its simplest form for your students to see.  The objects display the information in a concrete way.

That's all folks! At least that is all for the steps needed to use this option in your classroom.

Before I end this post I want to tell you how well I recommend this option to you based on my criteria.

My Evaluation of Option One: Teacher Presentation

  • Accessibility of resources: 
Resources are very accessible because you are providing them for yourself and they are not obscure materials that are difficult to find.

  •   Amount of student involvement:
When you are presenting all of the skit, then there is not much room for student involvement other than asking them a few questions along the way, which don't get me wrong helps keep them interacting, but this choice may not be the most entertaining to your students.

The more student involvement the better because their participation and enjoyment of the skit can increase their motivation, and motivation boots learning.

Below is a picture that illustrates why interaction is key in learning!


  • Student learning style accommodations:
The teaching presenting the skit allows the students to observe being performed and written on the board (visual/spatial and logical/mathematical), listen (verbal/linguistic),  and interact some ( a bit of the interpersonal).  Only these four different learning style are being offered to students, thus it is not satisfactorily meeting this criteria either.

Overall: I give it *** stars out of 5.  It does offer a good way to present material with creativity and there is some interaction, but not enough.  Teacher presenting the material is not the most effective way for students to learn nor is it the most exciting.

There you have it that is option one to using a skit to teach an Algebra lesson.  Stay tuned for the next two blogs in which I will give you the two other options, the third I believe to be the best based on criteria and my research.

Thanks for visiting,
Aliana ~Theater Lover~
Future Teacher
Longing to bring Creativity into your Classroom via Theater!

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