The Lab Gear is a comprehensive manipulative environment I designed for the teaching and learning of algebra. It is sold by McGraw-Hill. I have written three binders' worth of activities for it -- The Algebra Lab: High School, The Algebra Lab: Middle School, and Lab Gear Activities for Algebra 1. The first is available below. Contact me if you need one of the other two.
For a full training on the Lab Gear, see the video course I helped write for Dr. Ed Dickey of the University of South Carolina. (Where to get it.) Or hire me to run an in-service or pre-service workshop. I can introduce the Lab Gear in one or two days, or incorporate that into a more general course on teaching algebra, which can run from three to five days. Or attend my Visual Algebra workshop.
A visual demo of Lab Gear basics, by George Collison.
An applet to explore and discuss the factoring of a trinomial, using the Lab Gear model.
A gallery of three items for the SmartBoard and its Notebook software. Each will give you an unlimited supply of Lab Gear blocks to manipulate on the board.
A suggested sequencing of lessons to help students move away from the blocks.
A Lab Gear / graphing connection (PDF).
A rather technical comparison of the Lab Gear with other models of polynomials, including a history of algebra manipulatives.
I get much e-mail asking: "I would like to use the Lab Gear. What should I buy?" Here is my answer:
- Enough "student pair" Lab Gear bags for your classes. (Each bag contains 30 ones, 10 fives, 4 twenty-fives, 18 x, four 5x, 10 x^2, 7 xy, 13 y, two 5y, four y^2, and only one corner piece. Except for the corner pieces, it should be enough for two to four students.) Three student pair bags can be purchased (slightly cheaper) as a "small group set".
- Additional corner pieces so you have enough for every student to have one, plus a few extras in case some are broken or lost.
- Lab Gear for the overhead (unless you have a SmartBoard, in which case just download my SmartBoard gallery (see link above.)
Note: I am paid no royalties on these products.
The 3D Lab Gear is currently unavailable from the publisher. Perhaps you can get some used sets? If so, get as many 3D Lab Gear bags as you have student pair bags.
You will also need one or more activity binders: The Algebra Lab: High School, The Algebra Lab: Middle School, and/or Lab Gear Activities for Algebra 1. Read on.
The Algebra Lab: High School (ALHS, written in 1990, available below) has many great lessons, some of them available nowhere else, and offers a good introduction to the Lab Gear for teachers. Much of it is merged into the textbook Algebra: Themes, Tools, Concepts. However, ALHS is not as easy to use with students as the other two: The Algebra Lab: Middle School (ALMS), and Lab Gear Activities for Algebra 1 (LGA).
ALMS is a subset of ALHS, but better presented and easier to use. LGA was written five years later. It is better sequenced, and includes some new material, including connections with graphing. Both are suitable for grades 7-9, and LGA has some lessons that work well in Algebra 2. Please get in touch with me if you need one of these.
Still, there are many activities in I recommend for classroom use in The Algebra Lab: High School. In particular, check out the Explorations. (See pp. ix-x in the front matter for an overview and index of those.)
Download any or all of it for your non-commercial use.
The Algebra Lab: High School
A comprehensive manipulative
program for Algebra 1
by Henri Picciotto
- Meeting the Algebra Lab Gear
- Computing with Signed Numbers
- Getting to Know the Lab Gear
- Simplifying Algebraic Expressions
- Multiplying and Dividing
- Combining Operations
- Solving Equations
- More Equation Solving