Grid Algebra

(contributor: Chris Linsell)

What is Grid Algebra?

Grid Algebra is a software package developed by Dave Hewitt, University of Birmingham, to support learners as they develop their understanding of early algebra.  It can be used successfully in class with a data projector and wireless mouse, but is even better if you have an interactive whiteboard.  The software takes students’ manipulations of arithmetic and algebraic expressions out into the open!   The software provides a powerful visual and dynamic representation of the ideas that underpin these aspects of mathematics.  It is a nice piece of technology that students readily relate to and that supports:

  • reading and writing formal numeric or algebraic expressions
  • finding equivalent expressions (including factorising and expanding brackets)
  • substitution, simplifying expressions and solving equations through taking inverse journeys around the grid
  • number work including mental arithmetic, factors, multiples, negative numbers, order of operations
  • plus much more!

A description of the software and video of Dave Hewitt using it can be found on the ATM website .

  • Chris using the Grid Algebra software with a data projector

How does Chris use Grid Algebra?

Below is a description of two lessons I taught to a mixed ability Year 10 class using the Grid Algebra software.  My aim was to develop the students’ ability to write arithmetic and algebraic expressions.  However, this is only one use of the software, and is just my inexperienced use of it.

  • Description of how Chris used Grid Algebra

4.021 Description of Grid Algebra

  • Video clip of Chris introducing a few features of Grid Algebra to students

How does Grid Algebra help students?

Grid Algebra helps students to:

  • show rigour and correct use of vocabulary
  • see that algebra is everywhere
  • adds reading and writing notation to their toolboxes
  • provides an engaging context for learning
  • Read more from Chris about how Grid Algebra helps students

4.021 How Grid Algebra Helps Students

Here are a series of video clips taken from one class period that illustrate how Chris used Grid Algebra to develop rigour and vocabulary with the Year 10 students.

  • Chris builds on student responses to clarify the order of operations


  • Chris explains how different expressions can have the same value

  • Chris emphasises how students are seeing the structure of algebra



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