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SAT Math: Strange Symbols

High School Algebra & Functions Activities: SAT Math: Strange Symbols

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See more activities in: High School, Algebra & Functions

We’re all familiar with the classic symbols of mathematics, operators like “+” and “–”. But how should you interpret an operator like “&” or “@?”. The SAT often uses signs like those, and they can seem like symbols from a very foreign language.

But even though they look mysterious, they’re just waiting for your student to decipher them. Here’s an activity that will help her figure out the meaning of strange operators by understanding how to use the code key.

What You Need:

  • A pencil
  • A piece of paper
  • A copy of the phrase to be decoded.
  • 2 or more players
  • Candy or another small prize

What You Do:

1. Give your teen this code key:

a

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_

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_

_

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_

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1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

 
 

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14

15

16

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18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

 
 

2)      Have her use the Code Key to decipher this phrase:

10.21.12.9.21.19       3.1.5.19.1.18    12.9.11.5.4      20.8.9.19      3.15.4.5

3)      Give your student the next code key:

a

_

_

_

_

_

_

_

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a

!

#

@

$

%

&

^

*

(

+

)

=

 
 

_

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_

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_

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~

/

<

?

>

`

"

;

\

:

--

,

.

 

4)      Have her decipher this phrase:                                            , / ;    a > $    & / / @    a "   " ^ * '

5)      Read the answers, and offer a prize to the winner, or to everyone who broke both codes.

“Julius Caesar liked this code.”

“You are good at this.”

6)      Extend the lesson to math.  Show your teen this problem:

Let @x represent the number of different pairs of positive integers whose product is x.  For example,  @16 = 3, since 16 can be written as 1*16, 2*8, or 1*16.

Problem:  What is the value of @36?

Solution:  The Code Key told us the meaning of the box is to find the factors of 36:  1*36, 2*18, 3*12, 4*9, 6*6

There are 5 pairs of factors, so the answer is 5.

7)      One more problem:

Let  “&x “ mean “13 – x”

Problem:  Which is bigger, “&5”  or “ &4” ?

Solution: The Code Key told us that “&” means to subtract the number from 13.  So…

“&5”  = 13 – 5 = 8   WHILE   “&4”  = 13 – 4 = 9

Therefore, 4 is bigger.

Cindy Donaldson, BS Mathematics, taught Math, Business, and Computer Science at Menlo-Atherton High School for seven years. She has also worked as a tutor for SAT and SAT II test preparation. She is the mother of two young daughters.

Updated on Sep 19, 2012
See more activities in: High School, Algebra & Functions
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