Solving Equations: Lesson Ideas

Your own textbook has numerous pages on equations and their solutions. What I’ve pulled together here are scenarios that involve students in solving equations in unusual contexts.  A change of pace, a different approach. If you have found lesson ideas on working with equations that you’d like to share with colleagues, please share the wealth!

Algebra—Fun with Calendars
Using any calendar, tell a friend to choose four days that form a square, then tell you only the sum of the four days. You tell her the four numbers! The trick lies in setting up an equation and simplifying it to an algebraic expression.

The Yo-Yo Problem
In these activities, students explore patterns, write a pattern in algebraic language, and solve equations using algebra tiles, symbolic manipulation, and the graphing calculator.

Balance Beam Activity
Students explore the meaning of balance, a key concept in developing mathematical understanding of solving equations. Working with shapes of differing weights, the students must experiment to balance the virtual scale by adding shapes of unknown weights. They use basic equation-solving principles throughout the activity. 

Algebra Balance Scales-Negatives
This applet presents an equation for students to illustrate by balancing the scale, using blue blocks for positive units and variables and red balloons for negative units and variables. Students then work with the arithmetic operations to solve the equation. A record of the steps taken by the student is shown on the screen and on the scale.

Amby’s Math Resources: Order of Operations
This resource is a tutorial and practice on a topic that often frustrates the younger middle school student. Immediate feedback is given when an incorrect answer is chosen, plus a full explanation of the correct solution.

Planet Hop
Here students concentrate on writing an equation. In an interactive online game, they find the coordinates of four planets shown on a grid or locate the planets when given the coordinates. Finally, they must find the slope and y-intercept of the line connecting the planets in order to write its equation. Tips for students are available as well as a full explanation of the key instructional ideas underlying the game.

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