Want an engaging activity to help teach algebra? Dots and Boxes xyz is a beautiful game that will engage a large spectrum of your class. They'll be saying "x + 7 beats 15 because x = 10."
If you familiar with the standard Dots and Boxes game, get ready for a few twists... First, many boxes are filled with variables. Second, once during the game a player may opt to change one of the variables instead of adding a line to the board. The result is a game where an apparent winner is suddenly bamboozled by finding that one of the variables that they've been collecting is now worth negative points! Students love it.
45 minutes is the minimum time students could spend on this game. It can be put to good use for at least a full week of hard fun.
Advanced game boards in the second half of this pdf file include exponents so your students will make conclusions like "x squared beats y + 10 because x = -5 and y = 10."
The $500 classroom challenge is open to all classrooms who get inspired by this game. Send a photograph and/or story about your experience.