Balancing Equations: Step it Up!

Balancing Equations: Step it Up! Activity

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See more activities in: Middle School, Algebra & Functions

Want to reinforce new middle school math terms while helping your child solve simple one and two-step equations? The trick is to make it visual. Start with the basics, use colors, and take it one step at a time, and you'll have a math step master on your hands in no time!

What You Need:

  • unlined white
  • paperblack marker
  • multi-colored markers

What You Do:

1) Begin with a simple, one-step equation.

In black marker, write:

n + 2 = 5


  • “You must get n by itself.”
  • “What is the opposite of +2?” (-2)
  • “What you do to one side of the equation, you must do to the other side.”


n + 2 – 2 = 5 – 2 (Write “- 2 “ on both sides in red.)

n = 3

2) Practice a one-step subtraction equation this way.


n – 3 = 6

n – 3 + 3 = 6 + 3

n = 9

3) Next, move on to two-step equations.

In black marker, write:

5y – 10 = 5


  • “You must get “y” by itself.”
  • “What is the opposite of - 10?” (+10)
  • “What you do to one side of the equation, you must do to the other side.”


5y – 10 + 10 = 5 + 10

5y = 15


  • “5y means ‘5 times y’.”
  • “What is the opposite of ‘times’?” (divide)
  • “To get y by itself, divide both sides by 5.”


5y = 15 (Write “/ 5” on both sides in green.)

5y / 5 = 15 / 5

y = 3


  1. By using colors, students can easily see and review the steps required to solve one and two-step equations.
  2. Keep practicing until the process of solving simple equations becomes automatic.
  3. Equations quickly become more complex, requiring several steps. Be sure your middle-schooler has a concrete understanding of the basics so she is able to move ahead with confidence.
Brigid Del Carmen has a Master's Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders/Emotional Impairments. Over the past eight years, she has taught Language Arts, Reading and Math in her middle school special education classroom.

Updated on May 24, 2013
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