I'm loving teaching (a 1 year course of ) Algebra 1 for the first time. It's fun to be the first person to show the kids all the stuff I take for granted they know later on.
Recently, we started solving one-step then two-step equations. Maybe everyone does this, but I found it helpful to start with a goofy story. I told them I bought them a special present (it was just some random object in the room), and I wanted to give it to them, but I first had to wrap it up. So I put it in a box, then I put the lid on the box (some plastic tub I had laying around), then since it was see-through, I wanted to wrap it up (I had an old sheet laying around), and then I had to put a bow on it (some random string I cut up). Then I asked them what were the steps to what I had just done. They repeated them. Then I asked them, if they wanted to get the present out, what specifically did they have to do and in what order. So we went through untieing the bow, unwrapping, opening the lid, and taking the present out of the box.
Then I linked this to a 2 step equation on how you have to undo what's being done to x and in the opposite order that you had "wrapped up" x. This seemed to work (so far).
A few days later we worked on combining like terms and "challenging" distributive property types like:
5 - 2(3x - 4) = 20. YEESH! That distributing the negative was a challenge. I explained it 3 different ways, and different ways seemed to work for different kids. One kid was okay with: okay, cover up the "5" and just look at the "-2(3x-4)", what would it become? Then it's just "adding 5 in front of that operation".
I'll see how they did on homework tomorrow.