## Using a Combining Like Terms Foldable

Combining like terms is a skill that students start using in middle school and that keeps on coming back year after year. I use this foldable with my 7th and 8th graders. It works as an introduction to the topic, as well as a review. It gives students a way to see 3 different types of terms in an equation: x, y, and integers. Also, they see positive and negative numbers as part of the terms. More often than not, the biggest problem students have with combining like terms is dealing with negative numbers. So, to set the stage, I make sure that we practice adding positive and negative integers before we use this foldable and tackle combining like terms.

## The combining like terms foldable in action

To get started with combining like terms and this foldable graphic organizer, students are given an example of an expression that has a variety of terms. Below the expression they combine the x’s, the y’s, and the integers. I like to reinforce that we typically put the variables in alphabetical order and the integers go at the end.

One key to getting the most out of this foldable is to make sure that students are using math talk and explaining to a partner what’s going on. So, after writing down this process, I like to have students turn to a partner and explain what terms they grouped together and why. (Click here to purchase this foldable. Then, just print and go.)

Next, students write out the expression after they have have simplified the expression. It’s a good practice to make sure to have them actually read the expression out loud. This helps them to become more familiar with what they are actually doing and use math language.

Then, we write a rule for combining like terms. Students usually need a sentence starter or an example. I like to let them talk to their partner about what the rule might be. Below you can see an example of a rule that could be written about combining like terms.

## Getting the most out of this foldable

Sometimes in our math classes we can get really into giving the notes, but then we don’t do much with it afterwards. Students have to learn how to make the most of their notes. After using this set of notes on combining like terms, I have kids do a few more examples right there on the page in the notebook. This can definitely be a powerful reference as the unit and year goes on.

The key points you want students to remember are:

- Combining like terms means to group by variable type and constants.
- The co-efficient is a multiplier of the variable and so it sticks with the variable.
- Look out for negative numbers when adding and subtracting.
- You simplify expressions when there is no equal sign.

This is a skill that doesn’t help very much if students can only use it in isolation. It becomes very important when students start solving multi-steps equations or using slope intercept form. When they seem to be struggling with remembering how to combine like terms, it helps to make sure to refer them back to their foldable.

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## Let’s recap…

This foldable works great as an introduction to combining like terms, or to review this concept. Students get a chance to simplify an expression and then write a rule about combining like terms when there are a variety of variables. Then, students can be directed back to this foldable throughout the year.

Use this foldable, or something like it, to give your students a reference in their interactive notebook. Thanks for reading! Until next time.