Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Old Poly Factoring

Kevin Holland
Santa Rosa District Schools


-Old Poly- factoring is a great reinforcement or enhancement to any algebraic factoring unit. Students are given a set of -Old Poly- cards and have to match polynomials to their factored forms. The game is played like -Old Maid-.


Describes, analyzes and generalizes relationships, patterns, and functions using words, symbols, variables, tables and graphs.


-Practice Worksheet for each student
-Set of -Old Poly- cards for each pair or group of students. To prolong the life of the cards, copy them onto cardstock paper.


1. Have sets of -Old Poly- cards made. Use card-stock for longer lasting cards.
2. Copy worksheets for all students.


Prior Knowledge: Students should know the technique of factoring difference of squares and perfect square trinomials. This lesson is designed to reinforce and give practice to these techniques of factoring in a fun environment, not to teach factoring.

1. Hook your students with the statement: We are going to play the game of Old Poly today!

2. Review the techniques of factoring difference of squares and perfect square trinomials with the class.

3. Distribute a worksheet to each student to practice his skills.

4. Review the answers with students and work any missed problems.

5. Divide the class into pairs or groups of 3-4 students.

6. Give a set of Old Poly cards to each group or pair of students.

7. Explain the rules of -Old Poly-:

A. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals them all out. Each player matches the polynomial with its factors for those pairs in his hand. These pairs are placed face up on the table.
B. Play begins by each player passing 3 of the remaining cards to the player on his right. If this action results in new pairs being formed, each player adds these to the spread in front of him.
C. To begin the draw, the player to the left of the dealer draws a card from the hand of the player on his left. If the drawn card completes a pair, he plays the pair face up with the others. Otherwise, he keeps the card and the next player to his left draws from the player on his left.
D. Play continues until all the pairs are formed, leaving one player with the -Old Poly- card. This person is the loser. As a player’s hand is depleted, he drops out of the game.

Variation: The player left with the -Old Poly- card is the winner!

8. Collect cards and store for another day!


Observe group participation to make sure that students are correctly pairing the cards and collect student work. The student worksheet can be scored as a regular class assignment. Students who have difficulty completing the sheets should be receive further instruction.


The concept of -Old Maid- can be used with many different mathematical concepts such as solving equations, factoring trinomials, or finding slope and intercept from general linear equations. Cards can be homemade, made on the computer, or students can make their own cards.

Web Links

Web supplement for Old Poly Factoring
Factoring a Trinomial (using tiles)

Web supplement for Old Poly Factoring
Factoring a Trinomial with Algebra Tiles

Web supplement for Old Poly Factoring
Grid Game for Multiplying or Factoring Polynomials

Attached Files

Set of "Old Poly"cards and a practice worksheet.     File Extension: pdf

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