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Adding and Subtracting Polynomials in Function Notation Question Stack Activity

My Algebra 1 students are currently working their way through our unit on polynomials.  We have new math standards in Oklahoma this year which has required me to change things up a bit.  In the past, my students needed to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and factor polynomials.  The new standards STILL have them doing all of that.  But, they also need to be able to add, subtract, and multiply functions written in function notation.  We do functions and function notation waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy before we ever talk about polynomials.  So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine these two skills.

I made a question stack for my students to use to practice adding and subtracting polynomials in function notation.  If you don’t know how a question stack works, this post explains it pretty well.  Basically, students are given a set of 10 double-sided cards.  Students lay the cards out with the ANSWERS facing up to form an answer bank.  Students choose one card to flip over.  This will be the first question.  When they figure out the answer, they locate that answer in the answer bank.  That card is flipped over and stacked on top of the previous card to reveal a new question.  The answer bank gets smaller and smaller as students work problem after problem.  It’s self-checking which means I can target my time to helping the groups who need it most.

Each group got a laminated page featuring four polynomials and a snack bag with their deck of cards in it.


drawing of laminator machine with text "laminating recommendations"

A laminator is a MUST-HAVE for me as a math teacher! I spent my first six years as a teacher at a school with a broken laminator, so I had to find a way to laminate things myself.

I’ve had several laminators over the years. I currently use a Scotch laminator at home and a Swingline laminator at school.

I highly recommend splurging a bit on the actual laminator and buying the cheapest laminating pouches you can find!

The four polynomials:

Here are the 10 problems students worked through as they completed the question stack:

I tried my best to vary the notation so students would be used to the different ways the question could be worded.

Here is the answer bank:

I had my students work in pairs for this activity.  In some class periods, a few students would choose to work alone.  I also had the occasional group of three when the class consisted of an odd number of students.

Action pics:

My students were engaged.  There was good group-talk going on.  And, we did lots of practice.

Make Your Own Question Stacks

Want to make your own question stack activity? I have created an easy to use printable question stack template that works perfectly every time. All you have to do is add your own questions!

make your own question stack template.

More Activities for Teaching Polynomials


Monday 27th of February 2017

Thanks! This was a great way to use function notation. Here in Ohio they use it on our test too. An easy concept that messes them up. This was a great format for practice! Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 2nd of March 2017

Glad you found it useful!

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