A technique I use when first introducing variables is playing a “game” with the class vs me. I draw a scale on the board, we build a shared meaning of what it represents (balanced = ). Then, I place objects on a table in front of the scale. Some can be seen and some are hidden in a cup. The students’ job is to figure out how many are hidden. We slowly transition to writing what is shown with a variable, and they make the connection between arithmetic they k ow, and how a variable is an unknown.
I think programming will really encourage my algebra students who have the mindset that they can’t do it. Or the ones that have a hard time visualizing what’s going on. Providing them a concrete way to see what is happening with their math will hopefully be very motivating. They also have a visual to check their work.