In middle school it seems like we do a lot of equations. Students learn to solve one step, two step and multi-step equations. The cool thing about doing all of these types of equations is that they build on each other. Once students get going, two-step equations can become a rote skill that students know how to do almost without thinking. They can get to a point where they solve equations pretty automatically. In order for them to get to that level, they need a lot of practice over time. So, I love to practice solving two-step equations throughout the year. I plan in review during sponge time, fast finisher time, and on those days when students (and teachers) need something fun. The activities in this post are perfect whether students are just learning how to solve two-step equations, or if they’re honing their skills throughout the year.
One key with two-step equations is that students need to see all four operations. If they get really good with two-step equations, then they’ll have an easier time learning multi-step equations. This skill can be practiced with the whole class, with partners, or individually. When students struggle in the whole group, then I know to pull them in a smaller group and help fix those misconceptions. Among these twelve activities you’ll find ideas for independent practice, whole class review, technology-based resources, and enrichment.
The two-step equations activities:
Basketball Game Online
Worksheets and Football
Let’s dive in
As you can see, this list includes a variety of activities and you can definitely find something for any occasion. Some of the activities work best for bell ringers, others for homework, and some of them are perfect for whole class practice. All of these activities will bring some fun and engagement to the classroom.
Just the other day I was testing a group of kids for a district writing benchmark. Many of them finished with 90 minutes of the testing sessions still to go, and they weren’t actually reading the books they had out on the table. Knowing I needed to keep them busy to keep the class quiet for those still testing, I looked over at my leftover papers pile and realized I had a whole bunch of mazes. I started handing them to these kids and they got started working on them. Then, they’d come up to me to get them checked. It continues to amaze me: something about mazes make them engaging for students, and not intimidating. Now, I know to have some on hand. You never know when they will come in handy.
This set of 3 mazes will get students practicing solving two step equations with all four operations. In each maze they have to complete about 14 problems. I roam the room while students are working on the maze and stamp them when they’re done. If they have a mistake, I let them know where it is. Typically, we do this maze activity as a bell ringer and then I have a more involved problem for them to complete afterwards on the board. Kids love mazes!
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My students love playing this two step equations knockout game as a whole class review game. It’s super simple to set up and play. You just project the main page on the screen, and in this game a student chooses a problem by selecting a donut. When you click on their donut, it reveals a two-step equation problem. Then, all students complete the problem shown. I use SmartPals for students to do their work on and when time’s up I count 3-2-1: show me your answers. This gives me the chance to see what students know and of course, what they are struggling with.
Students keep track of their points throughout the game. I usually have have prize for the winner of the game. Also, a few times during the game a bonus will appear. This bonus can be good or bad. Sometimes the person choosing the bonus gets extra points. Other times, that person actually loses all their points. The kids think this is hilarious and they really get into the bonuses in this game.
In this game you’ll find two-step equations with positive and negative integer operations. Some of the answers have fractions. Basically, students will solve 16 two-step equations problems and be very engaged while they’re doing it.
Basketball Game Online
Sometimes you need an activity that students can play for a few minutes while you work with a different group of students. This basketball game works great for that. I put the link to the game on Google Classroom and had some students play the game while others were working with me. This worked awesome as a review game. The graphics and the game play are not stellar, but kids liked the idea that it’s a game and that they got to work with a partner.
To play, students simply take turns solving two-step equations and getting a chance to score points.
Worksheets and Football
I don’t really use worksheets anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. I find that once you give students something that looks like a worksheet, they can check out instantaneously. But, some simple changes can get students engaged even when they’re really just doing a worksheet. One of the ways that I turn a worksheet into an activity is by playing a class football game. I explained more about how I play this football game with my students in this post here (it’s about halfway down the post).
Over on the Pre-Algebra Coach’s website you can download free worksheets with lots of problems that you can use to play this football game. Also, you can use this set of 18 mini task cards for the same game.
Pro tip: When I play team games I still make sure that all students do all of the work. There’s nothing worse than playing a game where only a couple of kids are getting the practice. This game is no exception. Even though students are playing in groups, I make sure that each student is accountable for doing their work. Smart Pals, white boards, and individual score sheets are all important tools that can make that happen.
This choose your own adventure activity is very fun and creative. Students answer a series of questions and they try to figure out a mystery country. The problems are varied and not just simple two-step problems. Students get the chance to figure out a complicated riddle as they worked on their problems. This would also work great for fast finishers.
Sometimes you just need some good old-fashioned practice. That’s what these mini task cards have to offer. They consist of 18 two-step equations and the problems on these cards increase in complexity. You’ll find some integers and fractions in this set of task cards. Task cards have so many different uses making them a great option for independent practice, partner activity, bell-ringers, and the list can go on and on.
These task cards work great as a scoot game. To play, you put one card on each desk. Give students a set amount of time to solve the equation and then check their answer on the back. When the time is up everybody scoots to the next desk. Students love this activity because there is a little bit of excitement (and movement) when they move desks.
When we review for tests, I like to play games like Jeopardy. This jeopardy game is ready to play. It has a variety of combinations of operations. Also, it has a miscellaneous category that has some questions about variables.
Every student answers every question and they keep track of their points. They get the points for every question they answer correctly. Some kids don’t really care about the points and other kids get into the points. It’s amazing how kids will work for points even when the points don’t have any actual value. They just like the rush of getting the points, I guess.
I have a love/hate relationship with Kahoot. It’s not always the best situation to work on problems with the class. They get so hyped about the game that they can’t really concentrate on what I’m saying about the problem. Actually, for me this game works best as a formative assessment. When the game is over you can download the results to Google Drive and they give you a lot of information. You can see how each student did as well as how well each question was answered.
This Kahoot game has a variety of two-step equations. If you want this for a quick formative assessment you could even edit the game and cut down on the number of questions.
This version of Connect Four is an online game between two players. Each player has a chance to solve an equation and then they choose where to place their colored disc. They try to get four in a row.
You can also play this game with different types of equations. The game aspect gives students a little more motivation and they get to play against someone else. The equations in the two-step equations game aren’t very hard and some students will be able to do them in their heads. I pair kids up with someone at a similar level and find that that works best.
When I first saw a paper chain activity for the math classroom, I thought that it looked like a waste of time. But, one day I decided to just go ahead and make one because I felt like I needed to try something new. To my surprise, my students loved it. I loved it too. My favorite part is that that students work out the problems and then put all of the questions and answers in order. They work in partners and there’s fantastic math talk.
When they finish, students make the chain and then we connect all of the chains to each other. We have a big huge mall area between classes and we decorated it with all of our paper chains. Initially, we tried to go around the entire mall, but we never got that far. It looks really cool and the kids get really into it. I shared more about my love of paper chain activities in this post.
This paper chain activity is part of our 7th grade end of the year review pack. The whole pack has a wide variety of activities and topics, or you can grab just the paper chain. Check out the end of the year pack here.
One of the cool things about this game from Math Games is that you can choose from 8 different games to play. Each game has a different take on getting correct answers and conquering things. Kids love to play these types of games. You can even assign it directly to your Google Classroom. One drawback is that they don’t have an unlimited number of questions and the question types don’t vary very much. Try this one as a warm-up or a game for fast finishers.
One of my favorite anticipatory sets to get kids thinking is Diagnose the Problem. All you need is a problem and then you strategically “solve” it with an error. Then, students have to identify where there’s a a mistake and try to explain what they were probably thinking. Sometimes students add the integers wrong; other times they multiply instead of divide. I use the common errors that students make and then create worked problems with these mistakes in them.
If you’re major nerd like me then you might want to use these prescription slips for students to diagnose and prescribe on. Not all of the kids appreciate this type of thing, but most of them do. It just adds a little novelty to the classroom.
Try one thing
So, there you have it: a whole bunch of two-step equation activities. Try one or a handful of them. You will get your students engaged with these activities and they’re great to have handy for any sponge time that comes along. You never know when you have a spare 5 minutes to diagnose a problem, or get in a little extra practice. On occasion, I find myself with 10 to 15 minutes because my lesson didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Having something like a knockout game or Kahoot in your back pocket will make the kids think you meant to incorporate some cyclical review.
To get a great deal on several of the resources mentioned, check out this Two-Step Equations Game Pack. Thanks so much for reading! Until next time!
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