Math = Love: Translating Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities Interactive Notebook Pages

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Translating Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities Interactive Notebook Pages

Today I want to share our first Algebra 1 notes of the year.  I'm structuring my course a bit differently this year.  This year, my goal is to give my students more meaningful problems to solve.  I want to contextualize every problem possible.  In the past, I've given my students lots of equations to solve that were just numbers and variables without meaning.  I've given my students written expressions to translate into algebraic expressions without giving them a reason for why we needed to translate them.  This year, my goal is to set up my course so that students start to see how everything we are doing ties together.

My first goal of the year was to get students translating expressions, differentiating between expressions, equations, and inequalities, and identifying their parts.

To kick off the lesson, we took notes on the definitions of expressions, equations, and inequalities.  Then, I had each class make their own examples of each.  I found that almost all of my classes wanted to create expressions, equations, and inequalities that were all numbers and no variables.  At first, this frustrated me.  Then, I began to realize that this was a great form of formative assessment.  It showed me exactly what my students were comfortable with.

On the inside of the foldable, there are three sections: expressions, equations, and inequalities.

I also gave students 12 boxes.  Each box had an expression, an equation, or an inequality written in word form.

The first thing we did was decide whether each box was an expression, equation, or inequality.  Once they were all glued into our foldable, we went through each one and highlighted the key terms.  We used these key terms to translate them into algebra.

To help my students keep track of all of the key words and what they (usually) mean, I gave my students a key word chart to glue in their interactive notebooks.

Since we'll be using this chart ALL year long, I wanted to glue this chart into our notebook in such a way that we can reference it easily.

To achieve this, I had my students tri-fold the chart.  When we're not using the chart, it lays in tri-folded form on a left-hand page in our notebooks.

When we need to reference it, it folds out of our notebooks.  As you can see, the blank section is glued into our notebooks.

The awesome thing about this is later in the year, we'll still be able to see the chart no matter what page we're on in our notebook.

Here's our chart when not in use.

Note the "turn around" words at the bottom.  These are the phrases that tell students to switch the order from how it is written between word form and algebra form.  I've used this strategy for several years, but this is the first time I've ever given my students the "turn around" phrase in print with students.  Now, my students are continually reminding each other, "Hey, don't forget it's a turn around word!" which is just music to a math teacher's ears!

To go over the parts of an expression, we made a "poof book" that covers terms, coefficients, and constants.  Here's the cover of the book:

Not sure how this book was assembled?  I did a post on a book for a different topic with the same template/approach here.

Notes over terms:

Notes over coefficients:

Notes over constants:

After discussing each vocab word, I gave my students more written phrases to translate into algebra.  After translating, students had to underline each term, highlight each coefficient, and circle each constant.

And, a close-up:

Files can be downloaded here.  


  1. Thank you sooooo much! I love your resources.

    I used these templates this morning with my Grade 10s and 11s and they worked out so well. Cheers!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thank you so much for sharing these resources. I was looking for some Algebra revision activities for my Yer 7 students who are coming back from break and I think I can work with your resources. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  3. Hi Sarah --
    I've been using your templates and had a student tell me twice so far, "I love the way we do our notebooks in this class!" My students all have dyslexia, and your easy-to-follow INB pages and cutting/highlighting/circling activities work wonderfully for them.

  4. This is fantastic! Thank you for providing the downloads!!

  5. Thank you Sarah for providing this information!

  6. WOW...I love these resources! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I love to use Interactive Journals with my resource students. They have learned so much more with the use of these journals and I am always on the look out for great foldables and journal notes. Yours are always so clear cut and concise. They aren't overwhelming for my students with ADHD, and they require less writing than some for my students with fine motor skills issues. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and resources.

  8. Getting ready for August; making my teacher INB. I absolutely love your website. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your materials, pictures, and insights. Your students are blessed!

  9. Thank you for sharing. I teach 6th, 7th and 8th and it work for them too. I love your tips and resources

  10. Thank you! I teach Algebra 1, and these concepts are so important for students to understand before we begin working in the textbook --- I am so grateful for your generosity in sharing these awesome ideas and resources.

  11. I just did this activity today as an introduction to the vocabulary of our Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities unit with my 7th graders. They LOVED it, and even my behavior-problem-prone students were engaged. THANK YOU!

  12. Sarah, thank you so much. I am unsure how I missed these earlier. Do you still use the foldable from 2015 interchangeably? Thanks for the quick twitter response today!

  13. I love this activity! However, when I clicked on the link to download it, it says "this site can't be reached." Have you removed it? Can I find it somewhere else?

  14. Hi, I can't download your resource, is there another way? Thanks! it looks that I could really use them.

  15. Your notes have been a blessing to so many teachers!!

  16. Thank you so much . Your resources have been helping me for years and I am very appreciative. I often have to pay for resources on teacher pay teachers and getting them from your site and no charge is a Godsend. Again, thank you and many blessings to you.

  17. Your notes are very helpful! Thanks so much for sharing!