I think most people have heard of these, but not everyone knows what they are and how to use them. I’m not really going to explain that here. I have however found a great power point that is very easy to explain. A direct link to the power point is here. The Alliance for the Improvement of Mathematics site is here http://www.delmar.edu/aims/
What I will do is explain how to make your own set of tiles.
Start with four different colors of paper. Card stock would probably be best. Red, blue and yellow green is suggested. The x tiles will be red and blue and the y tiles will be yellow and green. One color will be for positive and one color for negative. I would also laminate when done if you can.
When making the tiles the important part to remember is that the long side of the tile should be immeasurable. This is easily enough to figure out by simple using any sort of diagonal on graphing paper. Make the short side 1cm in length. Make two different size tiles. This is important because the immeasurable length means that the tile is an unknown. When introducing the tiles to the students for the first time let them measure all they want and eventually they should come to the determination that the length of one is x and the length of the other is y.
The next two tiles to make are squares that are x2 and y2. Finally you will want 1cm by 1cm squares of white. (You can substitute centimeter cubes for this) If you want you can also include 10cm long strips.
The tiles can be used for everything from adding and subtracting integers to multiplying and dividing polynomials.
Finally, I want to end with a great video from Dan Meyer. He is sharing his application video for Apple’s Distinguished Educator Program. It’s a fun watch and because he uses Vimeo it is visible on school computers.