I like the beginning of the 7th grade math curriculum because it really is the BASICS of Algebra. We worked on one step equations using addition and subtraction. I showed them a balance with an “apple + 2 (sticking to the fruit theme) on one side and positive 6 on the other. We discussed how to get the apple alone, we must remove the 2 from the one side and if we do that, we must also remove the 2 from the other side. Then we can see that the apple represents positive 4. Some students got this…others looked very confused.

I like to show them the visual, but I also think at this age they often get it more with just the routine steps of how to do it. Once we got through a few examples I had them break off into groups and work together on some. Almost every student was careful and organized with their steps. I loved it! Inevitably, a few questioned why we have to go through the steps when you can just “figure out” the answer. It’s then that I show them something like -3x + 8 = 2x – 7 and say, well then tell me what x is! I do think it is hard for a young middle schooler to truly understand the process. I teach the phrases like “isolate the variable”, “cancel out”, “keep it balanced”, but do they all understand what they are really doing or are they just following the process?To end the class I had a “teacher” and a “student” up at the Smart Board solving an equation. The student had to act like they had nooo idea what they were doing while the teacher had to tell them exactly what to do to solve the equation with REASONING. The class had fun watching this. On the homework tonight, students will have to write out, again WITH REASONING, the steps for solving a specific equation.

## About Gretchen Simmerson

Middle School math teacher living in Austin, Texas.