Translating Algebra Dry Erase Mat Activity

Before we started translating between words and algebraic expressions, equations, and inequalities, I decided to figure out what my students remembered about this process from previous math classes.

I created a chart to be printed on 11 x 17 cardstock.

I printed one chart for each table group. Then, I slid each sheet of cardstock into one of my 11 x 17 dry erase pockets.

I printed one chart for each table group. Then, I slid each sheet of cardstock into one of my 11 x 17 dry erase pockets. If you are looking to save a bit of money, you can also pick up a package of 11 x 17 sheet protectors for a much cheaper price! They won’t be quite as durable, but students can still write and erase with their dry erase markers.


dry erase pockets

I cannot imagine teaching math without my dry erase pockets! They instantly make any activity more engaging and save me countless hours at the copy machine since I can use the same class sets of copies year after year.

Here are my current go-to recommendations:

After we finished our quiz on the distributive property, I had students group up and write as many words to mean each symbol as possible.

At first, most groups only wrote one word in each box. I had to continually re-emphasize that I wanted them to come up with as many different words or phrases for each symbol as possible.

After groups worked for a few minutes and seemed to be coming to a stopping point, I started throwing out phrases and asking them to write them in the correct box.

For example, I would say something like “Did any group use the word sum? Good! If you didn’t, discuss in your group which box you should add the word sum to.”

The groups were always super excited when I called out a word that they had already thought of before I mentioned it!

This was a great way for me to informally assess where my students stood with translating before we ever started the topic.

There were a few words that tripped up my students every hour. As I circulated around the room, I overheard several heated debates about the word “product.” Some students insisted that product meant multiply. Others insisted that a product was the answer to a multiplication problem. Since it was an answer, it must mean the equal sign.

I spotted many of my students referencing my math symbols posters on the wall which made me super happy!

It’s so interesting to study these answers in more detail from the pictures that I took as we completed the activity. In the picture below, “product”, “quotient”, and “sum” have all been placed the the box for =. However, “product” is also included under multiplication. “Quotient” and “sum” have not been placed elsewhere. This group has also made an error in classifying “difference” as division.

If I’m honest, my students got into this activity WAY more than I expected. They were super sad when I made them erase their answers and put the dry erase pockets away.

Here are a few more action shots because I’m apparently incapable of taking just a “few” photos during class…

It is my hope that this activity stuck with my students as we did our Translating Algebra Around the Room Activity later in the week.

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One Comment

  1. How well do coffee filters work erasing your dry erase pockets? I currently use dryer sheets. They work just fine, but the students practically suck them up their noses sniffing them when they are new.

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