Balancing Equations: Step it Up! Activity

2.2 based on 20 ratings
Updated on May 24, 2013

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

Say:

  • “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.”

Show:

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

n = 3

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

Show:

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

Say:

  • “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.”

Show:

5y – 10 + 10 = 5 + 10

5y = 15

Say:

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

Show:

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

5y / 5 = 15 / 5

y = 3

Tips:

  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.

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