Tips for Teaching Multi-Step Equations

Tips for Teaching Multi-Step Equations

I’m not currently in the classroom, as most of you know, but I do have a 7th grade daughter who is working through advanced 7/8 math virtually. It is NO fun for her and very difficult since she can’t be with her teacher. So, I’m doing a LOT of teaching with her at home. She recently went through solving multi-step equations and I’m going to share with you some of the things that worked for her, some that didn’t and resources and ideas that worked when I was in the classroom both with struggling and advanced learners.

First – I typically share that my number one tip is to introduce a skill with real life situations. But with solving multi-step equations, my number one tip is to have students show every single step. EVERY SINGLE STEP. If students skip over parts and don’t show each move they make, the probability for errors will grow and grow. There are two online whiteboard options I’ve found that can help you and your students, while you are teaching equations virtually. Both have free options as well as super cheap next level options – seems to be the best based upon my trials – the other, miro, is also a nice option. 

Next – I try to drive home the idea that solving multi-step equations is nothing more than a combination of basic facts. All students have to do is add, subtract, multiply and divide – often basic numbers. Students can get so caught up in the steps and how much there is to do that they don’t realize they are truly just utilizing skills they learned many years ago.

Tip 3 – When there are variables on both sides, I have students (and my daughter) move both the variables AND the constants at the same time. It seems confusing, but it actually eliminates one step and combines two others. It lets students see quickly that the variables have to move to one side and the constants to another. Click here for a quick video example!

Great Activity – I came across this activity and think it is genius! Scroll down to the group activity paragraph and watch the video. This teacher uses M&Ms and Gummy Bears to physically model solving equations with variables on both sides. I don’t know that it will work for the distributive property, but definitely for combining like terms and equations with variables on both sides.

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Hi, I'm Lindsay!

I create ready to go resources for middle school math teachers, so they can get back what matters most – their time!

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