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Utah Education Network - Writing Algebraic Expressions For Words


Activity Description


Screenshot of the Writing Algebraic Expressions Lesson
Source: (License: Protected by Copyright (c) [i.e. screenshot])
This activity asks students to translate verbal expressions into algebraic expressions and includes Evaluating Expressions Bingo Game and Expressions Card Game to practice their skills.


  1. Review lesson plans and decide the amount of time you want to devote to each segment. There are detailed lesson plans on the Web site.
  2. Prepare the needed materials.


  1. Begin with the Starter as an introduction to the lesson.
  2. Move on to lesson segment 1: How does the result change when the value of the variable is changed?.
  3. Play Evaluating Expressions Bingo.
  4. Continue to Lesson Segment 2: What words indicate operations? How can mathematical symbols represent verbal expressions?
  5. Lesson Segment 3: Practice using a Game.

There are detailed Lesson Plans for each segment on the Web site and great links to printable exercises for students.

Teacher Tips

This lesson was not created for adult students, so you may want to skip some of the class activities . Still, the lesson material is well done and the knowledge is necessary for the GED math test. Try the bingo exercise.

Program Areas

  • ASE: High School Equivalency Preparation
  • ABE: Adult Basic Education


  • Intermediate
  • High

Lesson Plan


As pairs, students write an algebraic expression to model each of the following:

  1. For finding the next term in this sequence: 1, 3, 9, 27…
  2. For finding the number of blocks in the next row
  3. Share results with the class
  • Discuss the importance of algebraic expressions in representing real-world situations.
  • Introduce the concept of substitution and how it affects the outcome of an expression.
  • Give examples for students to work as pairs, then whole class.
Engagement Enhancement

1. Begin Q/A as student pairs, then general discussion: How does the result change when the value of the variable is changed?

  • Define substitution using a real-life example (substituting salt for sugar in punch).
  • Conduct mental substitution exercises for expressions like 4m, r/3, and 5.5 - y.
  • Discuss whether the value of the expression would be the same if the substitute were changed.

2. What words indicate operations?

  • Discuss words indicating operations and how mathematical symbols represent verbal expressions.
  • Read aloud expressions from the Bingo game using various words indicating the operation.
  • Have students write the words and expressions on the back of the Bingo worksheet.

Conduct Four-Corners activity to generate lists of words for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Engagement Enhancement

Evaluating Expressions Bingo:

  • Distribute the Bingo game worksheets and numbers in a bag.
  • Model two or three substitution problems for students.
  • Conduct the Bingo game, having students evaluate expressions and circle the called-out values.
  • Emphasize the importance of using words to interpret algebraic expressions.

Expressions Cards Game:

  • Copy the Expressions Cards as a two-sided card stock page.
  • Divide students into pairs and provide each group with a set of Expressions Cards.
  • Players take turns showing a card, and opponents guess what's on the other side.
  • Players collect cards in their "Expert" pile for correct guesses.
  • Two-player teams can compete, and the pair with the most "Expert" cards wins.
  • Students write expressions and matching words in their "Expert" pile.
Engagement Enhancement
  1. Observe student participation and understanding during activities.
  2. Ask questions during discussions to gauge comprehension.
  3. Assess correctness during the game by reviewing the expressions written by students in their "Expert" pile.

Encourage students to apply their knowledge of translating words to algebraic expressions in real-world scenarios. Assign additional practice or problems that involve interpreting expressions in context. Emphasize the relevance of algebraic expressions in solving practical problems.



  • Math
    • Algebra
    • Pre-Algebra


  • Operations and Algebraic Thinking
    • 2.OA.1 - Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction.
    • 4.OA.1-3 - Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.
  • Expressions and Equations
    • 6.EE.1-4 - Apply and extend previous understandings of arithmetic to algebraic expressions.


Math, expression, expressions, game, Network, substitute, Utah, variable, verbal, word, algebraic, algebraic expression, bingo


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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.