The Narrative of Algebra 1


As a first year teacher, I remember struggling to piece together day-by-day lessons and overall just feeling way in over my head. This continued for a few years, and it was especially challenging to figure out how to organize concepts in a way that made sense for my students.

Fast forward 6 years, and I finally feel like I have a pretty firm grasp of Algebra 1. One thing that has helped is the development of a better understanding of the overall big picture of the course. Knowing what the most important concepts are and the overall direction of the course makes it easier to stay focused in the middle of a series of lessons about dividing polynomials.

With this in mind, it’d be nice to help other teachers, like me, who may not be familiar with a subject’s grand narrative as they begin a career or maybe teach a subject for the first time. I’m hoping this video is useful for that purpose. It isn’t meant to show everything that is taught in Algebra 1. Instead, the intention is to clarify the why in the middle of units with puzzling skills and also provide direction with where the course is heading.

Will you help me?

  1. How can this video be improved?
  2. It’d be fun to make similar videos for other courses as well. If you have ideas or can point me to resources to help develop narratives for Geometry, Algebra 2, etc., feel free to leave a comment.


Check out the full list of credits to people, videos, and resources that provided inspiration for the animation and graphics in the video.

Also, I owe Graham Fletcher a big thanks for his progression videos. Great work that led to the story idea. Also, Larry Peterson, along with other MTBoS’ers, mentioned the idea of teaching subjects as stories at some point on Twitter. Thanks Larry!

8 thoughts on “The Narrative of Algebra 1

  1. It’s great! I love the creativity. It covers everything. I’ll use it next year when I introduce my students to “What are we going to learn this year?”

    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving

  2. I love this!!! I have been teaching for over 20 years, and you nailed it….better than I ever could have said it. May I borrow???

  3. I like it! I especially like that captures nearly all the key concepts in less than two minutes. I should probably watch it a third time before making suggestions, but here are my thoughts… if it’s intended to be shown to students, I would leave out the description of the patterns of change for those three function families. Seems like that takes away from the inquiry experience we want students to have. You might replace those descriptions with questions, such as – what is unique about each of these three functions? how can we recognize a linear pattern? A quadratic pattern? An exponential pattern?

    Thanks for putting this together!

    1. Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful reply, Whitney! I really like all your suggestions.

      After some thought, I decided to aim the video at new teachers or teachers who are teaching Algebra 1 for the first time. I struggled big time in my beginning years, and many struggles stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have a good grasp on the big ideas of the course. So, my hope is that other teachers can get a jump start with this video.

      Your ideas are much more student friendly though. I’m intrigued…

  4. I agree that it’s really hard to get a good handle on a course until you’ve taught it the whole way through. I taught Algebra 2 for the first time last year, and when I was in the middle of teaching the course, it was hard to see all the connections I could have been making (even though I tried my best to find those connections the summer before!) Once the year was over and I had a better idea of what the course entailed, I was able to revamp my lessons and this year is soooo much better. Your video will be a great resource for any teacher looking to get an overview of Algebra and will hopefully help them see the bigger picture! Great job!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m right there with you in your experience. Definitely makes it understandable how it’s hard to make important connections if you’re new to a subject.

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