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Teaching Equations to Pre-Algebra Students

I got in a heated discussion the other day with a couple of colleagues about how to teach equation solving to pre-algebra students.  The equation x + (1/2) = (3/4) came to mind because generally I start a discussion of equations by showing examples of one-step equations.  However, this equation (or most equations with fractions for that matter) is special because the quickest way to solve it may not always be the easiest way to solve it.  This can cause a dilemma if I am discussing one-step equations, but NEED to show the students two step equations in order to make the problem easier to understand for the students.  Does anyone else have an opinion on this?  Any input would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.


By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.


  • Shana Donohue -

    I wonder if you’d be interested in the math tool I invented. It came from a need to teach my algebra students how to balance equations such as “solve for x in: 22x + 17 = 3x + 5”, where the student has to either subtract 3x – 22x or 5 – 17 to get to the answer. My students were having a lot of difficulty with this, answering that “3x – 22x = -25x”, and so on. As it turned out, this was the BIGGEST mistake my students were making in algebra, which boils down to simple integer subtraction! The tool is called the ZeroSum Ruler and you can see it here at my blog…

  • Hi Shana -I will take a look at your blog this weekend, but at first glance I do think that I would be interested.  Thanks for pointing me to your blog.  It's nice to share ideas with others and be in the know about what new ideas are out there. — Jon

  • Shana Donohue -

    Thanks, Jon. It definitely is nice to look around at different blogs to see what other math teachers are doing. There are a number of good ones on, like “Math Mom Writes” and “Math Hombre” to name two. Happy Holidays!

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