I had an idea a couple months ago. Throughout the year I've found that we have time on our side in my Algebra II class. Despite a harder attempt at curriculum we have cruised through seven of the eight major parent functions and it's March.

It's about time for a break in the action. Last semester we spent a couple days on The Estimation Wall, now it's time for something larger and more public. While nice, The Estimation Wall sits right outside my classroom. My classroom isn't on a main drag, foot traffic is low.

Around the corner is plenty of vacant wall space near the entrance to the math department. Somewhere in there will hang our Algebra Wall.


The goal of the activity isn't really practice. It's a display piece (we have many murals on display throughout the school). A showcase of the variety of functions available in Algebra II with some focus on their applications. It starts with foam board panels.

Currently we'll build eight panels: Linear, Quadratic, Absolute Value, Radical, Exponential, Logarithmic, Rational, and Exp/Log Applications. In the future we MAY add Conics and Inverses, depends on how April goes. Why not wait until April for the whole thing? I'd like this to be on display longer than a month.

Hanging the panels isn't something I've figured out yet. Upon asking permission for this project it was requested the panels be removable for the summer.


The panels are pretty big. Each measures 20" x 30" and will be arranged 2 x 4. Each will have the type of function on display, the parent function, and how you would identify if something's linear, quadratic or whatever. Before assigning the project, I mocked it up to get an idea.

A challenge with the idea is getting each student equally invested. I dislike projects that give kids the opportunity to twiddle their thumbs. I heavily avoid assigning roles and my "projects" are really displays where equal effort was required from all. Some finish faster than others, but no student becomes burdened trying to complete an entire poster themselves while two others steal the credit.

I'm going to have 22 students build this thing, that's part of the reason the panels are so big. You can fit eight examples and graphs on these things. Factor organizing everything and making title blocks and we have a TON of work.

Divide and Conquer

I debated itemizing the 80 some odd things needed and having a sign up process. But I didn't want anyone crying foul because whoever signed up first snagged all the linear. Since these are big, I do want certain students in charge of organizing all the disparate parts. For example, if I was making a linear piece, I would give it to the person organizing the linear panel when I finish. Having single students in charge of a panel will allow each panel to look consistent. These students would also be in charge of the title block material for their panel.

Next I drafted up all the equations I wanted them to present. On the back are the items for the application panel (some population comparison, financial situations, etc).


I put their names in a spreadsheet to hand out work. I wanted it to balance. I hand picked the panel organizers. Recognizing the extra effort, this counted as part of their work load. I wanted 3-4 work items per student. I gave extra work to my super fast students who didn't have a panel to organize. Each student will be all over the place in terms of problem type. No one gets all the linear.

Click for zoom.

The Estimation Wall took about two and half hours. I want to spend about the same here. It may take a little longer. Being a display piece, I think there will be a proof reading phase. Also higher tolerance on the final product. Nothing glues to a panel until I give it the ok or something like that. Could that be the organizer's job? Maybe? Or they gather all the material for a single approval per panel?

The Algebra Wall will be hung by the time you read this. Part Two will document the chaos that gets us there.

AuthorJonathan Claydon