Question Detail

How can I teach exponents in a contextual way to 8th graders?

Jan 17, 2015 2:15am

This is my first year teaching 8th grade and we’re currently working on exponents and all the general rules. My classroom focuses on projects, collaboration, and group work. Exponents have been difficult for me to teach in a way my students learn best. As a result, we've turned to the unexciting method of note taking and practice exercises. I've been searching for ideas on how we can learn about exponents in a contextual way that exemplifies their importance, prominence, and beauty. I've come across numerous activities, but all seem to require some topics that my students may be unfamiliar with. This may be decay, binary computation, or scientific formulas. We're getting ready to move into scientific notation and I feel we're not ready to proceed, so I'd like to get some ideas of fun ways to learn about exponents that does not revolve around note taking and practice exercises, and demonstrates the application of exponents. Any suggestions are welcome!

  • Math
  • 8
  • Assessment / Differentiation / Engagement / Planning


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    • Jan 19, 2015 2:46pm

      And just to add to Ms. Collins' idea, because that's the way I would normally open my lesson through pattern noticing, by 8th grade or 9th, we learn the concept of negative exponents and again, we put it in the context of a paper folding activity (parts to a whole ratio) and they can make a connection that when you see a negative exponent, we use reciprocals. But it all boils down to and through noting patterns.

      • Jan 20, 2015 4:31pm

        Thanks so much guys!

        • Jun 6, 2015 2:36am

          I have also used different base number systems to introduce exponents to students. If we know that base 10 exponents describe the value of our places in our own place value system, Different base number systems, including fractions for negative exponents, can be used as vehicles to discuss the proportional relationships and patterns that exponential systems represent.