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How to Use Algebra Tiles to Model & Solve Equations

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  • 0:01 Algebra Tiles
  • 1:12 Modeling an Equation
  • 1:53 Solving the Equation
  • 3:46 Example
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

In this video lesson, we take a look at using algebra tiles to represent our numbers and variables. See how to use these to help model and solve equations.

Algebra Tiles

In this lesson, we'll take a look at algebra tiles and how to use them to model and solve our equations. Algebra tiles are square and rectangle-shaped tiles that represent numbers and variables. Using algebra tiles provides a more visual way for us to solve our problems. It helps us to see just what quantities we're working with. It's like we are using building blocks to help us.

Each square tile stands for the number one. If we have two tiles, then we have the number two. If our numbers are negative, then our square tiles can be a different color to show the difference. For example, blue square bricks can be positive numbers and red square bricks can be negative numbers. The rectangle tiles stand for our variable. If we have one x, then we have one rectangle tile. If we have 2x, then we will have two rectangle tiles.

We can also use different colors here to represent positive and negative variables. For example, green rectangle tiles can represent positive variables and yellow rectangle tiles can represent negative variables. To use algebra tiles, we place square and rectangle tiles on either side of our equation until we have all the numbers and variables covered.

Modeling an Equation

Let's take a look at how we can use algebra tiles to help us model and solve an equation. Let's take a look at the equation 2x - 4 = 10.

First, we are going to model this equation with our square and rectangle tiles. We see our equals sign, so we will place square and rectangle tiles on either side to represent what is on either side of the equation. On the left side, we have 2x and a -4. So on that side, we will have two green rectangle tiles to represent our 2x and four red square bricks to represent our -4. On the right side, we have ten blue square tiles to represent our 10.

Algebra Tiles
algebra tiles

Solving the Equation

Now that we have modeled our equation with our algebra tiles, we can play around with the tiles to help us solve the problem. Our goal is still the same. We still want to isolate our variable. In this case, we want to isolate the rectangle tiles. We want to move all the square tiles to one side and keep all the rectangle tiles on the other side.

For our equation, we have two green rectangle tiles on the left side with four red square tiles. We have ten blue square tiles on the right side. So, we want to get the two green rectangle tiles by themselves. We need to move the four red tiles. To move them, we need to pair them up with a different colored square.

Since our square tiles are red, we need to pair each of them with a blue square tile. Alternately, if our tiles were blue, we would need to pair them up with a red tile. So, we match the four red square tiles up with four blue square tiles. We remember that whatever we do to one side, we also must do to the other side. So, we also add four blue square tiles to the right side.

algebra tiles

Whenever we have a red and blue pair of tiles, we can take them out of the problem. It's as if they cancel each other out. This leaves us with just the green tiles on the left and our blue tiles on the right.

algebra tiles

Now, to finish solving our equation, we see that we have two rectangle tiles on the left. So, to find our answer, we need to split the blue tiles on the right side into two even groups. We can move the four blue tiles near the bottom so that two go on the top row and the other two go on the second row.

algebra tiles

Now, we can solve our problem by looking at our tiles. We see that each green rectangle tile is equal to seven blue square tiles. So that means our x is equal to 7.

Example

Let's take a look at another example. This time around, see if you can follow along yourself as we go through this problem. Use algebra tiles to model and solve the equation 3x = 12.

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