6 Strategies for Developing Conceptual Understanding of Equations

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It’s almost Friday!  I hope you had a wonderful week in the classroom.  Today I wanted to share 6 strategies with you that are intentional and successful in helping students develop a conceptual understanding of equations when they are implemented sequentially in the classroom.  When students are ready and comfortable move them to the next step.

I use #1, #4, and #5 a lot in my Algebra 1 classroom on the bell ringers my students take at the beginning of each class period.  These strategies are a great way to reinforce their understanding of equations even if they have already mastered this essential skill!

1.) Begin with problems in written word form.  For example, “Three less than a number is five.  What must the number equal?”  Have them find the solution.  Do this strategy with all operations.

2.) Present equations such as ___ + 6 = 9.  Ask the student(s), “What is the answer?  How do you know?”

3.) Present equations such as ___ – 4 = 11 and ask students to write it out in words.

4.) Change from using lines/spaces to using algebraic representation for variables in equations, like 15 – x = 12, and have students solve without showing the steps.

5.) Solve multi-step equations next such as 5x – 3 = 12.  Ask, the students “what number minus 3 is 12?”  That means 5x = 15 so x = 3.

6.)  Solve multi-step equations in word problem form.  For example, “I bought 4 cookies this morning and 3 more just now.  If each cookie costs 50 cents, how much did I spend in all?  If it cost me $5.25 to buy the cookies how much did each cookie cost?” or “I ate 1/4 of a pizza.  2 slices were left, how many were there to begin with?”

Have you used any or all of these strategies in your classroom?  Share with us how they have worked for you and your students!


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