Algebra is hands down my favorite part of math. I use it ALL. OF. THE. TIME. I write equations to figure out if I can beat my brother and his family to my parents' house based on how many stops they make and how fast they are going...it's SO useful. Getting that across to a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds takes more than just a nice speech, though. I'm sharing a few of my favorite things to do with my class to get them love-love-loving expressions & equations.

**To introduce variables**I do this activity - and I FINALLY made a product and posted it in my store. This just gets kids thinking about variables and what they mean - that they stand for something!

For each letter of the alphabet, there is a card with a variable. For example, card B says, "B is bigger than a baboon." They have to write B = a cruise ship (or whatever they pick) and they also have to PLUG IT BACK INTO THE ORIGINAL STATEMENT. After teaching this for a few years, I've decided to get the plugging into their heads early. So, their final statement is "A cruise ship is bigger than a baboon." If they just say that B = cruise ship, it no longer makes sense in the original statement (Cruise ship is bigger than a baboon). Why not throw a little grammatical practice in, too, am I right? Poor kids.

I love this activity especially because my class has to get up, move around, and talk to each other to find out information about each other. Some of the statements say things like, "V wants to be a veterinarian." etc. So they get to chat and they think they're totally getting out of math work. My rule is that they can only use a person once on their paper. That way they have to *

*gasp!** branch out from their BFFs.**To practice evaluating expressions**I created this gem: EQUATION INVASION! The game requires the group to have a die! A card is flipped and each person rolls the die as many times as there are variables. This way not everyone has the same exact answer since they each roll for themselves. Evaluate away! If your answer is a multiple of 10, touch luck, Chuck. You lose ALL OF YOUR POINTS! (Invasion). If it is not a multiple of 10, you get to add the answer you generated to your total points score. I tell my class to keep each other honest because if your neighbor isn't being honest, they'll beat you. Competitive, much?

This product differentiates in seconds - each card has the letter A, B, or C on it. C is your most challenging card level.

To differentiate

**WITHIN**each letter, just change up your dice options! I have a million different dice in my classroom. If a student needs a change, just give them a different die! I've learned that differentiation doesn't always mean writing three or four (or more!) different assessments and lessons. There are some ways to make it really easy for myself! #teacherwin!**For combining like terms,**I use two things. This activity from Middle School Math Madness. It's great for your visual learners to color coordinate. I also use this as a math center (also designed for quick differentiation) from my store here.

What are your favorite tips, tricks & products for algebra?