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Factoring Quadratics Question Stack Activity

Today I want to share with you a factoring quadratics question stack activity that I created for my Algebra 2 students.

photograph of parabola with text "factoring quadratics question stack"

This year, we got off to a very rough start with factoring polynomials in Algebra 2.  I had the brilliant idea that I would show my students how to factor using algebra tiles before we started using the box method for factoring.  

My students were frustrated.  I was frustrated.  And, it was the equivalent of throwing away a day of class time.  I wouldn’t even classify it as a productive struggle.  

So, the next day, I won their hearts back by showing them the box method.  And, I made them this factoring quadratics question stack activity to practice factoring with the box method to prepare for their factoring quiz.

When I started to teach factoring four years ago, I had no clue what I was doing.  I had learned to factor in high school using guess and check.  

Because algebra is one of my strengths, this method worked well for me.  My students that first year had a ton of trouble with the check step in “guess and check” which meant they would guess right, multiply wrong, keep guessing, and never arrive at a final answer.  

This frustration led me to try a variety of other ways to teach factoring.  I taught the airplane method.  I taught students to factor by grouping and split the middle term.  I taught students to slide, divide, bottoms up.  

My students rocked these methods, but their overall retention level was terrible.

The box method isn’t just a fancy trick for my students to memorize and then forget.  It relies on the same understanding of the area model that they have been building throughout the unit while multiplying and dividing polynomials.  

I tweaked the box method slightly this year, and my students have responded really positively.  That’s a post for another day, though.  

Today, I want to share a factoring quadratics activity that you can use no matter what method you use to teach factoring.

Never used a question stack with your students? I have another post that shares a free downloadable set of instructions for question stacks.

Question Stack Instructions

Each group got one pre-cut sheet of cards.  One side has the factored trinomial.  The other side has an unfactored trinomial.  

They are not flash cards.  The two versions on one card do not match up.  They are made so that the cards form a loop of question, answer, new question, answer, new question, etc.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

I distributed the cards to each group in their stack of red/yellow/green cups.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

They set out the questions on their desk with the answers facing up.  Since we were using this activity to practice factoring, the answers were the factored version.  

You could also use this same deck to practice multiplying binomials.  For this, students would start out with the unfactored version facing up.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

Students chose one card at random to turn upside down and begin a stack on top of their cups.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

They factored them on their dry erase boards or in their notebooks.  I let my students use their interactive notebooks on all of their quizzes, so many of my students choose to put their practice problems in their notebooks so they can reference them later.  

I’m finding that many of my students take better notes when they know that they get to use their notebook on their quizzes.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

Once they find the answer, they locate it on the desk in the answer bank. This card is turned upside down and placed on top of the cup to display the new question.

I was worried with this factoring quadratics activity that students might just look at the answer bank and not try the factoring on their own, but this was not an issue at all.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

As the factoring quadratics activity continues, the answer bank gets smaller and smaller.  My favorite part of this practice structure is that it is self-checking.  

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

If a group gets an answer that isn’t in the answer bank, they can’t move on until they figure it out.  Sometimes, there is a really similar answer in the bank, and they can figure out what they did wrong.  

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

Other times, they have to ask for help.  That’s what the red/yellow/green cups are for.

Factoring Quadratics Activity Question Stack for Factoring Trinomials

This was the perfect number of questions to give students practice for the first half of class and give them time to take their quiz during the last half of class.  

We have 52 minute periods.

Free Download of Factoring Quadratics Question Stack Activity


Factoring Quadratics Question Stack (No GCF) (PDF) (2631 downloads )


Factoring Quadratics Question Stack (No GCF) (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (1189 downloads )

I created a new version of this factoring quadratics activity that includes some problems where students need to factor out the GCF first.  You might also want to check out this factoring puzzle to give students some extra 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

sara

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Can you email me this file it's not downloading for me. sarabailey790@gmail.com

Sarah Carter

Wednesday 20th of October 2021

I think I was just able to fix the website issue that was preventing downloads.

Could you try downloading it again from the website so I can see if it is working now. If it still isn't working, I will email it!

Unknown

Wednesday 1st of November 2017

I love love love the box method! You can also use it to divide polynomials!! Best thing ever!

Dawn

Monday 6th of February 2017

Thank you. :)

Unknown

Wednesday 13th of April 2016

Can you email me the file for this? I'm having trouble downloading it. Email snelson12@hazelwoodschools.org

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 6th of May 2016

Email sent!

Cindi

Saturday 26th of March 2016

I don't understand what the different colored cups are for! Please explain...

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