Brain research supports that students benefit from being taught differences. "Focusing on and practicing differences gives learners the warnings and cues they need to identify them correctly in the future," stated Carolyn Williamson in her session on the brain at a recent NCTM conference.
Inspired by this idea, I thought about students' misunderstandings when it comes to simplifying expressions with exponents. Every year, students are presented with problems like (-2)^4 and -5^2, and they MIX IT UP, EVERY TIME! Why not be more explicit in presenting these differences to students?
That's why I designed this "parallel practice" sheet - to help students very clearly see and practice the differences between various expressions containing exponents, while applying the correct order of operations. This structure supports brains better - give it a try.