Students in pre-algebra and introductory algebra courses need to master many concepts and procedures in order to succeed in the courses that follow. Punchline Bridge to Algebra provides carefully structured exercise sets to build mastery. And it includes many thoughtfully designed problems that illustrate applications in the real world. Exercises are incorporated in practice puzzles with certain features that make this practice more effective.

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KNOWLEDGE OF RESULTS. Students need feedback and confirmation when they work, especially when learning new skills. Built into Punchline puzzles are various devices to give the student immediate feedback as exercises are completed. For example, if an answer is not in the scrambled answer list or code, the student knows it is incorrect. S/he can try again or ask for help. Teachers are able to spend more time with students who need help and less time confirming correct answers. Students work with greater confidence.

MOTIVATING GOALS FOR STUDENTS. Why Was the Baby Ant Confused? Each puzzle title is an engaging riddle. Students construct the punchline in the process of checking their answers. The humor acts as an incentive, because students are not rewarded with the punchline until they complete the exercises. While students may wonder aloud who thinks of such dumb jokes, they secretly enjoy them and look forward to solving the puzzles. In addition, discovering the punchline gives the student a sense of closure and success. Incidentally: “All of his uncles were ants.”

CAREFUL EXERCISE SELECTION. Exercises are sequenced to guide students in incremental, step-by-step fashion toward understanding of the concept or procedure involved. Students practice through an appropriate range of applications for the topic, and important variations and discriminations are highlighted. Real-world applications are highlighted. Exercise sets are designed to be challenging but doable, though the amount of instruction required will vary with the experience of the student.

OPPORTUNITIES TO WORK WITH A PARTNER. Several puzzles in these books are designed for partners. Each student does essentially the same exercises but with different numbers. Partners must work together to get the punchline. Students are encouraged to help each other, since both use the same solution processes, but not copy each other, since the numbers are different. There is interdependence combined with individual accountability, the twin hallmarks of effective cooperative learning. Together they produce an additional source of student motivation.

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Punchline Bridge to Algebra includes puzzles for most topics in today’s pre-algebra and beginning algebra programs — 200 puzzles in all. They are organized into 14 sections that correspond to chapters in many textbooks. Each puzzle is designed for a specific topic listed in the table of contents and on the page itself. Many puzzles provide space for student work. And, hopefully, their self-correcting feature will lighten the burden of correcting assignments. Please check out some sample puzzles to see if they would work for you.