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Literal Equations Scavenger Hunt Activity

I realized I never wrote about the literal equations scavenger hunt activity I did with my Algebra 1 students for much-needed extra practice.

During our unit on linear equation, my Algebra 1 students really struggled with converting equations from standard form to slope-intercept form.  So, I decided to save our unit on systems of equations until later in the school year.  After covering exponent rules, polynomials, absolute value, and factoring quadratics, it was finally time to jump into systems.  I had also skipped the literal equations section from the first chapter of our textbook.

We ended up spending half a week on literal equations.  I emphasized both solving famous formulas for a specific variable and converting an equation in standard form to slope-intercept form.  Instead of giving a test over this mini-unit, I gave a short, two-question quiz over rearranging formulas for a specific variable, and we did a scavenger hunt to demonstrate mastery over converting equations between various forms.

To create the scavenger hunt, I folded eight sheets of colored paper in half.  On the front of each half-sheet, I wrote an equation in standard form.  Inside each half-sheet, I wrote the equivalent slope-intercept form of a *different* equation.  I also wrote a letter of the alphabet next to each answer.  Then, I taped these papers in random places around the classroom.  I made sure to write down the order of the answers on a scrap of paper so I could quickly spot-check their answers.

literal equations scavenger hunt activity algebra math

For this activity, I let students work in pairs, but I required each student to show their own work on a sheet I created to help them organize their work.  Next to each answer and completed work, students copied the corresponding letter of the alphabet.  Though each pair started with a different letter, I could still check their answers.  (The fact that I could do this did blow a few of my students’ minds.)

literal equations scavenger hunt activity algebra math

My students really enjoyed this activity.  It got them out of their seats and moving around.  I don’t think I do that enough in my classroom.  I really liked hearing the conversations that started when students couldn’t find a corresponding answer card after rearranging an equation.  Often, they would have the right answer, but it was written in a different way from the answer card.  The fact that x/4 and 1/4 x mean the same thing really confused some of my students.  Or, if students had a very similar answer to a card found around the room, they would often work together to rework their problem.  Usually, they had just made a mistake with their signs or addition/subtraction.

Once students find the answer card to their previous question, they solve the new question.  The process continues until the students return to their starting place.  

Because my students couldn’t move on with the activity until they found each answer around the room, they were much more careful and focused.  Their questions were more specific, and almost every student completed the assigned activity during the 50-minute class period.  I think I only had 3 students who chose to not participate and work as hard as they should.        


Tuesday 27th of February 2018

Awesome idea - need a fun way to practice literal equations and this seems great. Thanks for sharing!

Anna Merritt

Wednesday 25th of October 2017

Do you have the attachment for this? Thank you! Love it!


Tuesday 23rd of December 2014

I do an almost identical scavenger hunt in my classes, but I put the answers on the *outside* to make it easier for them to find when they're looking. Most of my kids still say that finding the answers around the room is sometimes the hardest part though...

I LOVE your blog. I'm teaching Algebra 1 for the first time and am doing interactive notebooks. This is always the first place I look for ideas!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 19th of February 2015

Great idea! Thanks for reading my blog!

Brick House Project

Saturday 8th of June 2013

This is awesome! My middle schoolers love anything that gets them up and moving! Literal equations is in my first unit so this is definitely something I will be using. I use a different version of this where the top of the sheet has a question and the bottom has the answer to a different question. Each page has a picture on it that identifies the problem. They write down the name of that picture next to their work and I can quickly check their work or tell them where they went wrong.


Wednesday 5th of June 2013

I understand nothing of your math talk (6th grade teacher here:), but I love, love, love the math scavenger hunt idea! I can totally adapt that and use that in my classroom next year. Thanks for sharing!

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