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Adding and Subtracting Integers with Tile Spacers

This summer I was a guest blogger for Rachel Lynette’s Minds-in-Bloom.  I wrote a post titled “Classroom Finds from the Hardware Store,” and in it I mention the use of tile spacers when teaching adding and subtracting integers; I had several people ask me exactly how I use these, and I am just now getting around to writing a blog post on it.  I hope you find it useful!

Tile spacers are those little, rubbery “+-shaped doodads” (sorry to get so technical;-) that tile layers use to perfectly arrange tile in order create those straight, uniform grout lines.  You can find them in your hardware store, near the tile and grout.  They are typically white, but when I recently purchased a bag they were bright neon orange! If you can find these bright ones, grab them up; they are so much easier to find on the floor of your classroom during “clean-up.”  I purchased this bag from Lowe’s for $6.  You get 500 pieces, so you’ll need two bags if you want to make a class set for 33 students.

Adding and Subtracting Integers
Just cut the “nibs” off of some of the tile spacers to create your negative signs.  The material can easily be cut through with standard scissors.  You’ll need at least 10 positive signs and 10 negative signs for each student; 15 of each sign is even better. I recommend placing student sets in individual containers, like small ziplock bags or small plastic containers.  
Adding and Subtracting Integers
Each student will also need an “Integer Mat”; you can download one that I made for free {HERE} and laminate them for future use.  
Adding and Subtracting IntegersAdding and Subtracting Integers
With the materials all prepped, you’re ready to get going! I started to type out the steps of using the tile spacers and the integer mat, but I wasn’t doing a great job of communicating the steps. So, I made a video tutorial below.  I hope it’s helpful.  Let me know if there’s anything I missed in the video; I couldn’t bare to watch it and listen to the sound of my own voice;-).