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Human Polynomials Activity

Last month, I shared a building polynomials activity that I created. Since then, numerous teachers have shared photos with me of their students completing the puzzle. This makes me super happy!

Building and Naming Polynomials Activity

Since that activity has proved to be so popular, I thought it was time to share another activity I created to go along with it. I am calling this the Human Polynomials Activity.

Human Polynomials Activity to Practice Naming Polynimals

I tried this activity several different ways, and I found that it worked best when done immediately before the building and naming polynomials activity. When I did the card sorting activity before doing the human polynomials, my students struggled much, much more.

If you look at the SMARTBoard in the picture above, you will see where I have written “Quadratic Trinomial.” My students’ task was to build a polynomial that matched the name written on the board.

human polynomials activity

I typed up 16 different terms so that each term took up a complete sheet of paper. Each student was given one of the sheets of paper to hold. If I had been more on top of things, I would have punched holes in the corners and added yarn to make polynomial term necklaces for students to wear. One good thing about running out of time to do so was that I could make my students hide their faces in the photos with their papers.

This activity brought out several student misconceptions, just as I had hoped it would. Look at what happened when I asked my students to create a quintic polynomial.

Human Polynomials Activity to Practice Naming Polynimals

For this activity, a polynomial was defined as having four or more terms. Three terms referred to a trinomial, two terms a binomial, and one term a monomial. My students knew that they needed at least four terms to be a polynomial, but they failed to realize that the 9x^2 and -2x^2 terms could be combined to make a single + 7x^2 term. After going over this as a class, they were much more careful about looking at for like terms.

Human Polynomials Activity to Practice Naming Polynimals
Human Polynomials Activity to Practice Naming Polynimals

I love that this activity was very low-prep. I printed off the polynomial terms on colored paper, and I was ready to go. Usually I’m one to laminate EVERYTHING, but I didn’t laminate these and they held up just fine.

I also loved that I could easily change up the polynomials I asked each class to create based on their level of understanding. One of my favorite question series went like this.

Build a linear monomial.
Build a linear binomial.
Build a linear trinomial.

After a bit of struggling and trying different things with the last challenge, my classes came to the conclusion that it was impossible. Let’s just say they weren’t exactly happy with me for giving them an impossible task!

More Activities for Teaching Polynomials

Brooke Seals

Friday 22nd of March 2019

Quick question--how did your kiddos determine who would go each time? Did you just let them decide as a class or did you split them into groups for each group to find their own?


Monday 16th of April 2018

cool, interesting. let me use it to my students. thanks.

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