Looking Through the Algebraic Lens

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In this two-part math lesson, learners investigate problems that foster algebraic thinking across content strands. In the first part, learners explore even and odd numbers linked to quilts. Learners work with rectangles to find generalizations for adding and subtracting odd and even numbers. In the second part, learners use geoboards to construct polygons, look for patterns, and find a general rule. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Large chart paper for recording group findings
  • Paper rectangles
  • Recording sheets
  • "The Patchwork Quilt" by Valerie Flournoy
  • Geoboards
  • Rubber Bands
  • Geodot paper
  • "The Greedy Triangle" by Marilyn Burns


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Patterns
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Number and Operations
      • Number Systems
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Literature


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, PBS, 2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education