I remember there being a time when I had identified at least 3 different ways to use a variable, but for now, I can only think of two.

- Using variables to represent an unknown.
- Using variables as a pattern summary.

Well, w/ Common Core right around the corner, here are a couple of activities I loved, but rarely found the time to do well in the past. However, with my double Algebra this year, I have twice as much time w/ them to go over the same material so I got to work on these much more thoroughly… and I LOVE ’em even more!! I truly believe the lack of understanding variables in the different ways is what makes Algebra *hard* and not something that should make solving problems *easier*.

**1. Variables to represent an unknown.**

Usually used in solving simple equations. x + 5 = 9. “Some number plus 5 will give me 9”. I did a LOT more mental math to teach this part and I really do believe it went significantly better than ever before. Even up to equations like -2x + 6 = 0.

Another big way of using variables as an unknown that we neglect often, is in word problems. So this year, I have used a couple of worksheets that my former professor created which contains just word problems. After going over them pretty thoroughly for the first time this year, I fell in love with it even more because my students came up w/ different ways of writing the equations! Here we come, Common Core!

Daisy’s mom gives her lunch money every weekday. On Monday and Tuesday she gave her an extra dollar. The rest of the week, Daisy received the regular amount. For one week, she received a total of $42 for lunch. How much money does Daisy get for lunch each day normally?Lunch Money.

*Execution Tips*: Only pass out the first two pgs of Amazing Stories first (no answers). We did the problems, one by one, up to “Pocket Change.” Starting “Lunch Money” (the posted example), they were supposed to do it by themselves.

*without*having a bank of answers.

**2. Variables as a pattern summary**

*rules*come from. For example, if 2^3 * 2^5 = 2^8

*: Cubes. Preferably not too small. And the worksheets.*

**Materials****How many cubes will it take for 10 cows? Explain.**“

**How many cubes will it take for 100 cows? Explain.**“

**We started Pattern 1 and 2 in the last half hour of one class, continued the next day for about an hour, and then they were doing Pattern 5**

*Timing*:*by themselves*by the next day’s 50 minute class. Amazing how many students who do not understand Algebra actually are really good at figuring these puzzles out.