Algebraic Expressions Games & Activities

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Algebra can be a lot of fun if you make the effort to engage students. A way to do that is to play games and involve students in activities. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Algebraic Expressions Games and Activities

Algebra is a topic that sounds scary to kids, but it can be learned even at a young age with enough practice. One way to make that practice extra engaging is to use fun games and activities. This can add an element of teamwork and healthy competition to the learning process. Here are some ideas for games and activities that can help students understand and solve algebraic expressions and equations.

Quick Groups

For this game, create a set of index cards with algebraic expressions on them. You should create at least one card for every person in your class. For each card, there should be three others that are expressions that have the same value. For example, 3X + 2X + 4 is the same as 5X + 7 - 3, and x 2 - 16 is the same as (x-4)(x+4). These expressions can vary in difficulty, as appropriate for your particular students. You can also (or instead) include equations which solve to give the same result. For example, 6x = 3 has the same result as 10x = 5.

To play, give the cards out randomly to the students in your class. Students are given a certain amount of time (say, two minutes) to get into groups where everyone has a card of the same value. When they're done, check to see if students are correct, and then the cards can be collected, reshuffled, and handed out randomly again. This can be repeated many times, especially if you create far more cards than there are students in your class. It's a great way to have students practice without them realizing that's what they're doing.

Card Matching Game

In a similar fashion to the quick groups game, students can be given sets of cards to match together. Give students (or pairs of students) a pack of index cards with pairs of cards that have the same value. Alternatively, you can have expressions and descriptions; you could have one card that says 'Bob has 20 apples, and Jane has three baskets of apples.' This would match up with a card that says 3x = 20.

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