Factoring Practice!

04 September 2014
Today in Algebra 2 Honors, my students practiced factoring.  Yesterday, their homework was to look through their notes and textbook to find the three hardest factoring problems they could find.  I told them they could work with friends and bring the same problems, as long as they could tell me why they thought the problem was difficult.  My students thought I was joking at first.  One boy said, “This is like the easiest homework ever!” and a girl glared at him and hissed, “shut. up. now.”.  Super funny.  Their bellwork today was to list the “hard problems” on the board.  Some of the problems they chose were from their Factoring with Symbols worksheet.

Mrs. E Teaches Math:  Ideas for practicing factoring and a link to a free matching card activity

Once all the problems were on the board, we worked the problems together.  I had a few reasons for doing this:
  • I wanted the students to practice articulating why they didn’t understand something.  As a class, we talked about why a problem “looked scary”, then broke it apart together.  I kept stressing patterns.
  • I wanted them to get used to seeing challenging problems, and actually working through them.  This is a tiny baby step I’m taking to try to teach perseverance in problem solving. 
  • My students were much more focused because I was working “their” problems.  A few of them were impressed that I could factor the problems on command.  Come on guys, it’s my 4th year teaching the same course using the same textbook.  I practically have those problems memorized.

When we finished working the “hard problems”, I had my kids do a set of matching cards with a partner.  They were supposed to match a polynomial with the factored polynomial.

Mrs. E Teaches Math:  Ideas for practicing factoring and a link to a free matching card activity

I also gave them dry erase markers so that they could use their desks as scratch paper.  They LOVE writing on their desks.  

Mrs. E Teaches Math:  Ideas for practicing factoring and a link to a free matching card activity

I like to copy the problems in a different color from the solutions when I make matching cards.  It's easier for the kids to start working when they know what they're supposed to match.

Mrs. E Teaches Math:  Ideas for practicing factoring and a link to a free matching card activity

If you’d like to use these cards in your classroom, you can download them for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, just click on the picture below!

Mrs. E Teaches Math:  Multiplying and Factoring Polynomials Matching Cards

You may also be interested in:

Quadratics and Writing on the Desks!

Factoring quadratics
Factoring with Symbols

Linear functions
Authentic Math Task Lesson Reflection

Quadratic functions
Going Off on Tangents


  1. I love that matching cards activity and the idea of printing the cards and solutions on different colors! We are working on formative assessment this year and this a great way to do it after teaching a lesson!

    1. Thanks! I love matching cards because they're very low pressure for my students. Also, many students that think they can't do it often do well with the matching cards. If you get a chance to try them, I hope your kids like them :)

  2. LOL Are those cards blue and black? Or gold??? http://www.wired.com/2015/02/science-one-agrees-color-dress.
    Seriously, great product above.

  3. Hi,

    I love your blog mainly for your geometry stuff, but I do some algebra review with my geometry students, so I was looking around. I can't seem to factor the first hard problem. How do you do that one? I see the pattern of a perfect square, or am I wrong? Thanks for your great resources!

    1. Ahh! So, it's supposed to read (x-1)^2 - 8(x-1) + 16. So, it's a "hidden" perfect square trinomial. However, if I gave it to students as written, I would have them multiply it out, combine like terms, and see if they could factor from there. They would see that it was prime, and would probably be annoyed after all that work though ;)


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