The Language of Algebra

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SWBAT translate algebraic expressions into verbal phrases.

Big Idea

What is the language of Algebra? How does the language of Algebra tell us what is happening in a problem?


10 minutes

Students will practice adding and subtracting integers. During this activity, struggling learners have the option to use red and white integer chips to help them visualize the concept of zero pairs.  While students are completing the Do Now, I will pass out the vocabulary cards that will be used during the introduction section of the lesson.

The students will say their answers aloud to the class after 4 minutes. I will then ask the group if any patterns were identifiable, and how they used the patterns and their own prior knowledge to solve the remainder of the problems. 

Next, a student will read the objective and question of the day to the class: SWBAT translate verbal expressions into verbal phrases. I then call on a volunteer to give a definition of the word translate. To help students understand the significance of translating, I say a simple phrase in Spanish and ask them to say the corresponding English phrase. I tell students that we will be doing the same process today in class, using Algebra.

Lastly, I ask students to elaborate the similarities and differences between an equations and expressions. I encourage students to give a non-math example of the definition of the word expression, and then ask them to make a predication about the meaning of "expression" in math.



10 minutes

Individually or in pairs, students will be given exactly two minutes to sort their translating expression vocabulary cards into four piles. I give them no directions on how to sort the cards, and stress to the class to develop a method that most effectively categorizes the words.

While the students sort the cards, I pass out their guided notes: Translate Verbal Expressions notes

At the end of two minutes, I ask students to share and justify the method they choose to group their cards. After three groups have shared we will complete the table on the top of their guided notes, by having students popcorn answers aloud.

Guided Notes + Practice

35 minutes

In this section of the lesson, I will use the Translating Verbal Expressions Presentation and the students will be completing Translate Verbal Expressions Notes.

During Example One I will ask students:

  • Is there a difference between the phrases "less" and "less than"? 
  • Is there a difference between the phrase "more" and "more than"?

In examples where the phrase "a number" is used, I ask students, "What number is the problem is referring to? I use this question as an opportunity to informally develop the role of variables in Algebra.

Throughout the guided practice I encourage students to use the table on page one of their notes, as well as their vocabulary cards to set up complex algebraic expressions. Students who finish early are asked to create their own expressions to assign to classmates.

Group Activity

25 minutes

The class will play bingo as an opportunity to practice translating algebraic expressions into verbal phrases.

The bingo boards were created using an Excel document. A great way to accomplish this quickly and easily is to use the Bingo Card Generator on this site:

"...Open the document and click print. Then click the shuffle button and hit print again. Each time you hit the shuffle button excel creates a unique bingo boards that you can print out and use."

Here is a preview of what you get: Translation Bingo. You can download and print this file or create your own.


10 minutes
I will ask two students to give a 15-Second Summary of what we learned in class today. I will ask a third student to share out one thing that makes this skill difficult, and one tip they would give a struggling student who was working on the same activity.  Before leaving, all students will then complete a Translating Verbal Expressions Exit Card so that I can assess their progress during the lesson.