In this hands-on activity, students will simplify exponential expressions using properties of exponents. There are 16 cards, each with an expression on it. As students simplify each expression, they will find their answer on another card. As they work to put the cards in order, a secret message will be revealed.
This is a great activity (much better than a worksheet!) because:
1) It is self-checking. If students don't find an answer on another card, then they know they have made a mistake. Also, if the secret message doesn't make sense, they know they have made an error.
2) It is hands-on. Students can cut out their own cards, and then physically manipulate them as they work. Just a little bit of hands-on activity can help students stay focused throughout the lesson.
3) Differentiation. Students can work these problems out in multiple ways. They can either use the properties of exponents to simplify, or they can "expand it out" to find the answer. This allows students at multiple levels an entry point into the activity.
4) Easy to check and grade. If students have shown their work and have the correct secret message, you can be confident that they know what they are doing. That allows the teacher to move around the room quickly and find students who are struggling. There is also a worked key provided to help with assessing student understanding.
5) Opportunities for grouping. I usually give one set of cards to each pair of students. I have them each complete a worksheet, but they work together. You could also have students work individually or in larger groups.
This activity works well for Algebra 1, but is also a good review for Algebra 2 before diving a bit deeper into exponents.