K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will be able to evaluate algebraic expressions.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

2 hours


  • Each group will need a large piece of construction paper and markers.
  • I use worksheet 1.3 from the Glencoe Algebra I practice masters. However, you are free to use any worksheet or page in your book since all Algebra I books cover this topic.


Students will begin class by getting into their pre-assigned groups. Each group will be given a piece of large construction paper and five markers. The leader of the group is to divide the poster into four equal rectangles. Then each student chooses the color marker they will use for the activity. They are then instructed to draw a real world example of an event that must be done in a certain order. For example, the steps involved in taking a shower or the steps involved in baking a cake. Students share their posters with the class and we discuss the importance of the order of events which leads to my introduction of Order of Operations.


  1. After the pre-activity, I begin the lesson by introducing the phrase “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”. (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply and Divide from left to right, and finally, Add and Subtract from left to right.)
  2. Students are encouraged to create and share a phrase of their own to help them remember the correct order of operations.
  3. Present examples, making sure to include some that contain fractions and decimals.
  4. Students complete ten practice problems on their own.
  5. Students get with their pre-assigned partners and are given a practice worksheet. Person one will do problem one and pass it to person two. Person two will check problem one and do problem two and then pass the paper back. This will continue until the problems are complete. I usually grade them in class as each pair finishes and it counts as a grade.
  6. Students will begin the activity written on the board as they finish the pair activity. The activity is to create a five question quiz and answer sheet based on the order of operations.
  7. When all groups are finished with the pair activity and have started on the “Board Activity”, I then collect what they have created at that point. Depending on time, we either exchange papers or I just keep them and use the problems on the test.
  8. The last ten minutes of class is used to work on homework from the book.
  9. A bonus assignment is given that will be due the day of the test. Students are to create five problems that cannot be done simply as written but must truly be evaluated by using the order of operations. For example, (2+4)^2 +5 can be done as seen but 5+(6/3)^2/9 will require the use of the order of operations.


  • Group Activity: Students choose the color marker they would like to work with that day. Their name is written on the back of the poster with that color. Thus, I can tell who did what. I give a weekly conduct/participation grade which will be affected if participation is not obvious.
  • Note Taking: I do not grade notebooks, but I do often stop and walk around the room to assure that students are copying the notes. Once again, the conduct/participation grade will be affected.
  • Partner Activity: It is the responsibility of both students to do a good job on the worksheet either by correcting or by doing a problem correctly. Both students receive the same grade. However, I must see different hand writings in order to grade the paper.
  • Homework: I collect and grade homework every day.
  • Bonus: A maximum of five points will be added to test for correct examples.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 5

        • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
          • 5.OAT.1Use parentheses, brackets, or braces in numerical expressions, and evaluate expressions with these symbols.
      • Grade 6

        • Expressions & Equations
          • 6.EE.1Write and evaluate numerical expressions involving whole-number exponents.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 5: Algebra - The learner will demonstrate an understanding of simple algebraic expressions.
    • Objective 5.01: Simplify algebraic expressions and verify the results using the basic properties of rational numbers.
      • Identity.
      • Commutative.
      • Associative.
      • Distributive.
      • Order of operations.