Teacher2Teacher 
Q&A #2179 
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From: Diane White <Dianeteach68@aol.com> To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion Date: 2002091817:46:52 Subject: Teaching algebraic expressions The one thing that I found is that the wording in an expression is everything. I have taught prealgebra for many years and can offer you this advice: 1. Explain the simple number statements first: 3+4; 5x6; 28/4, etc. 2. Now substitue a variable for a value. Example rather than 3+4, we have x+4. 3. Turn the standard form numbers into words for the simple math facts: three plus four; five times six, etc. 4. Now substitute the variable for the number in words: x plus 4; five times x; 28 divided by x or x divided by 7 5. Give the students a list of the various words meaning addition: plus, sum of, increased by, more, more than  to cite just a few. Follow this up with subtraction, multiplication and division terms. 6. Have them become extremely familiar with all the key words. 7. Now, teach them the difference between a math statement and an algebraic expression. It is a simple matter of substituting a variable for a number. 8. Be very careful to note the following: When you use more than and less than you must explain to your students that the values here are transposed. Example: 5 more than a number is not 5+x but x+5. Example: 10 less than a number is not 10  x but x  10. This is the only case in all of prealgebra that the students the value of proper placement of value and variable. 9. When all is said and done, and your students cannot determine the difference between a constant value and a variable  do what I started many years ago. I simply explain to my students that a constant value  one which never changes  is my height. It stays at 5'3". However, my weight is a variable  it changes all the time hourly as I get older! Hope that this was informative  if not it was nice speaking to you Teacher To Teacher. Diane White
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