# Breaking Down 2 Step Equations

Today I’m writing about a simple idea that makes 2-step equations easy for kids – a box “trick”.

Students obviously have already learned how to solve one-step equations before being introduced to two-step equations, so I introduce 2-step equations by giving students a simple one-step equation.  The only difference is that I use an index card instead of a variable in my equation.

Put an equation like the one pictured above on the board and tell students to solve it for the index card, which they should be able to do easily since it is a simple one-step subtraction equation.

Once they solve the equation for the index card, lift up the original card to reveal what is underneath it (in this case 8x).  It also works if you write 8x on the backs of the index cards and just flip them over.

So, since the index card = 8x they now need to solve the equation 8x = 56, which is another simple one-step equation that they should already know how to solve.

Do another example or two with the class and then discuss how to decide which part of the equation goes under the index card (whichever part comes first using the order of operations).  Have students replicate the process in their notebooks by giving them a 2-step equation.  They need to draw a box around the part that would be under the index card.  First solve the equation for the box and then solve the new equation for the variable.

I have found that this method really helps students make sense of solving 2-step equations by turning them into two 1-step equations.  How do you introduce 2-step equations in your class?  Do you do something similar?  Please share in the comments!

If you are in need of resources to supplement your lessons on one and two step equations you may be interested in the following activities in my TpT strore:

Christina

# Assignment Checklists

Happy Labor Day!  Tomorrow is my first day back at school so I figured I would write one more summer blog post about how I am getting organized for this school year.

Today’s post is about one of those simple organizational ideas that I probably should have come up with 5 or 6 years ago but didn’t think of until now…

I typically try to wait until everyone in the class has taken a test before I grade it.  I do this because I think it helps me grade fairly.  When I grade them all at once it is much easier for me to be consistent with the amount of partial credit I award for problems.  If, for example, I grade some math tests one day and others a different day I may not remember how many points I took off of Jack’s test for not writing a negative sign so I may take off more points on Sara’s test for the same mistake.

The problem with waiting until everyone has taken a test, though, is that in the past I have been pretty dependent on students reminding me that they still need to take a test when they come back from an absence.  Sometimes I remember who hasn’t taken a test, but with so many other things to worry about I often forget.

So…this year I decided to fix this issue by making simple assignment checklists.  They are basically just a list of all of my students’ names with little check boxes next to them.  I made the checklists small (I fit 5 copies of the checklist on one sheet of paper) so that I wouldn’t waste alot of paper on them.

Assignment Checklist

My plan is to go through my stack of tests the day I administer the test and just make a check mark next to all the students who have taken the test.  I will then paperclip the checklist to the top of the pile of tests so I can look at it real quick and see who still needs to take the test.  It’s a really simple idea (that definitely should not have taken me 7 years to come up with) but I think it will really help with my organization this year!

If you want to print out checklists that you can use for your class, click the picture below to download an editable Microsoft Excel version of them.  I set it up so you can just enter your students names in the first column and they will be copied 4 other times so that you have 5 copies of the checklist per page.  Then you just need to cut apart the 5 lists and you are good to go!  Enjoy!

Wishing you all a wonderful school year (whether you are starting this week, like me, or have already gone back)!

Christina

# Studying for Math Tests

One of the comments I hear year after year from students and their parents alike is “you can’t study for math – you either know it or you don’t”.  After hearing that comment over and over again I decided a couple of years ago to address that misconception at the very beginning of the year before I have to hear it!  I like to give my students several different ideas for how they can prepare for my tests and quizzes the first week of school.  On back to school night (which is 2-3 weeks into the school year for me), I go over that same list of ideas with the parents.

My plan this year is to print out the following list on half-sheets of paper and have the students glue it into their notebooks on one of the first days of class.  Here is my list:

• Study the vocabulary words.  This can be done in many ways and you can use the same techniques you use to study vocabulary words for any subject (i.e. index cards).  It is important to keep in mind, though, that simply memorizing definitions is not enough.  I will rarely ask you to define a word on a test.  I am much more likely to ask questions that require you to use the vocabulary words to demonstrate your understanding rather than your memorization.
• Reread your notes.  Look over the example problems from both your notes and the textbook to refresh your memory on how to solve the problems.  Then “teach” your parents or friends how to do a particular type of problem by describing the process or steps to take to solve it.  If you are able to successfully explain how to solve a problem to someone else, then you must have a good understanding of that topic!

I always reinforce the idea that these are just suggestions and that there are other ways to study math, as well, but I try to emphasize that no matter what other techniques they use they really do need to try problems.  (I also kind of “force” them to try problems by assigning a practice test for homework two nights before a test because I know that no matter how many times I say it there will always be students who choose not to study!)

How do you get your students to study/prepare for your tests and quizzes?

# How Parents Can Help their Middle School Children Succeed in Math

I was at a meeting today where we were discussing some of the challenges that we face as math educators and things that we can do to help boost student achievement.  One of the things that was brought up at the meeting was parental involvement in children’s learning of math.  Many of our students’ parents did not learn to do things the same way that we are teaching their children to do them.  Many do not remember the math they learned in 6th-8th grade.  Many struggled with math when they were growing up and therefore do not feel confident helping their children with it.  For all of those reasons (and more), a large number of parents do not know how to help their child be successful in math.

In reflecting on this, I came up with the following list of some of the ways in which I think that parents can help their child succeed in middle school math: