# Algebra Tiles and the FOIL Method

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Algebra Tiles and the FOIL Method

Algebra is one of the most critical classes a mathematics student takes. In this crucial course, the student must make the jump from concrete numbers and operations to variables and uncertainty. Unfortunately, this area of mathematics is where most students lose interest in mathematics because the concepts become too abstract. The abstractness frightens students and this fear is where the typical “I hate math” attitude comes from. Educators need to be aware of this problem and accept that the traditional methods of teaching mathematics, specifically algebra, are too focused on intangible concepts. These concepts need to be introduced to students in a more approachable manner, such as concrete representations. One such concrete representation, algebra tiles, is an excellent way to introduce the concept of multiplying monomials and binomials. The multiplication of monomials and binomials is an essential ability for students to master in order to continue mathematics. Many students are intimidated by the concept of multiplying these vague terms with variables. In essence, the traditional method of teaching the multiplication of monomials and binomials, the FOIL method, is too theoretical for students to comprehend. A new approach must be used, and algebra tiles are one of the best new ways to approach this topic.

To start, the traditional FOIL method needs to be studied. The Math Help tutoring website explains the FOIL method as the process of “multiplying the terms in parentheses to get the quadratic form.” FOIL is an abbreviation for the order a student follows when multiplying. “FOIL, of course, means: First, Outside, Inside, Last – the order of multiplication to expand the dou...

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...iplying monomials and binomials. However, if one method must be selected, algebra tiles are the best way to address the needs of today’s mathematics students.

Works Cited

Leitze, Annette Ricks, and Nancy A. Kitt. “Using Homemade Algebra Tiles to Develop Algebra and Prealgebra Concepts.” Mathematics Teacher. 93.6 (2000) : 462-466.

Otken, Phil. “The Foil Method.” Technical Tutoring, 2004. 24 November 2004.