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Awareness of Pre-Algebra Concepts Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-ALG0001
Author: Lois Cullipher, Whittier Elementary, Mesa, AZ Date: 1994

Grade Level(s): 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


  • Mathematics/Algebra

OVERVIEW: Many students are afraid of algebra because of different reasons, but mostly because they aren’t comfortable with it. The national standards explain that algebra will be needed in the next few years to obtain any type of employment. In order for the students in America to compete Internationally with Japan and other countries, they need higher- level math taught in more comfortable and less threatening situations.


Since algebra is taught now in most junior high classrooms strictly in the abstract mode, students take it only if it’s required and unless they plan to attend a university, they forget most of the algebraic concepts they were taught.


As a result of this activity, the students will:

  • Demonstrate different algebraic equations using Borenson’s HANDS-ON EQUATIONS materials.
  • Identify orally or in writing the pre-algebra concept of finding the unknown.
  • State orally or in writing the meaning of equation.
  • Work in a cooperative group of three to solve algebraic equations with roles assigned for (1) manipulator,(2) recorder, and (3) checker.

    The Hands-On Equations Learning System
    Borenson and Associates.
    Box 450
    Dublin, PA  18917
    (215) 249-3212


  • Ask students what algebra is and whether it is important. Then ask the students how many of them plan to take algebra in school.
  • Using the balance, pawns, and number cubes from the Borenson materials, the teacher demonstrates some easy math problems to show an equation. (i.e., pawn equals 7).
  • Progressively work through the concepts as structured in the kit, building more difficult equations for students to solve. (i.e., pawn + pawn = 6 + 4, what is the value of X or pawn?)
  • Demonstrate on the chalkboard or overhead how students should record their work.
  • Have volunteer students work a problem with you in front of the class. Do this several times to make sure students understand the manipulation, recording and checking of their work.
  • Assign students to cooperative groups of three (high, middle, and low) and explain their assignment. Materials are distributed to each group–a balance mat, pawns and cubes. Explain the roles to students and how the roles will be assigned (i.e., oldest is recorder, next to oldest–the manipulator, and youngest–the checker or any number of ways). Explain what you will be looking for as you walk around to the groups with your clipboard whether you’re looking for collaborative skills, understanding of the concept, etc.)
  • Explain the grading for the group assignment (all students in each group get the same score–whatever their paper is worth; if one student chooses to let his co-workers do all the work and they get half the problems wrong, he gets the same score as they do. etc.)

    After students spend 20-30 minutes manipulating, recording, and checking their problems, collect the papers for grades or points. Then ask students how they feel about algebra. Conduct a low-anxiety class discussion on the lesson and the use of the materials. Through the discussion, hopefully, students will interact with each other and become more aware of algebra concepts. For the conclusion of the lesson, have students write or tell orally what an equation is, what is an unknown, what does balance mean, how they feel about algebra now after the lesson, how many would feel good about taking algebra later in school, etc.

    May 1994 These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.