Math = Love: Evaluating Expressions Interactive Notebook Pages

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Evaluating Expressions Interactive Notebook Pages

We kicked off our lesson on evaluating expressions with the parenthetical promise. Every year, I force my students to make the following promise to me: I, _____________, do hereby promise that I will always use parentheses whenever I substitute values into an algebraic expression. I make them sign the promise and date it.

Every year, I seem to have a few who don't want to play along. This year, I didn't have any of those because I told them that the students who didn't play along with the promise last year ended up failing the quiz. I think this year's freshman class may still be scared of me...

Though I've done this for multiple years now, I'm embarrassed to say that this is the first year that I've made a point of showing my students the importance of using parentheses when evaluating expressions. Can you believe that?!? In the past, I've just assumed that students would take my word that it was important. No wonder some students didn't want to play along...

As a class, we worked out the same problem two ways: with parentheses and without parentheses. Look, we got two different answers! See, class, I told you that parentheses are important!

But, now we have two different answers. How do my students know that 3 really is the incorrect answer and 11 is the correct answer? Should they just blindly trust me with this too? To reassure my students that Mrs. Carter really does know what she is talking about, I had my class get out their calculators (TI-30XS) so that I could teach them a nifty calculator trick. I walked them through the steps of storing -2 for x in their calculators. Then, I challenged them each to type x^2 - 2x + 3 in their calculators. Every student in the class got their calculator to read 11. That means that when our calculators substitute in values for variables, they use parentheses, too! See, Mrs. Carter is telling the truth!

Next, we glued in our first pocket of the year. I pre-printed the steps for evaluating expressions on the pocket. Super proud of how it turned out!

Inside the pocket, we put four practice problems that we completed. See all those lovely parentheses?!?

Finally, I gave my students a "One Incorrect" puzzle from Greta Bergman to solve. Students had to evaluate expressions until they found the one that didn't equal 36. Students are always eager to get their work checked when they get an answer that isn't 36. Usually, I find some error in their work, point it out to them, and send them back to re-work the problem. So, they end up getting LOTS of practice!

Files can be downloaded here.


  1. Loving your blog! I actually used this with my algebra class today. Plus the exponents with a negative that you had posted previously. Wonderful resources. Thanks so much!

  2. I absolutely LOVE the parenthetical promise sheet! I covered evaluating expressions in my honors algebra one yesterday but I printed this out and used it today as my lesson opener to emphasize this important fact! Thank you so much!

  3. Girl! Did you get OK Teacher of the Year or not!!! I can't stand the suspense! :)

  4. I am a student that received that same homework and I ended up with only 4 that evaluate to 36. 😅