Translating Variable Expressions


Prior to teaching simplifying expressions, I like to spend a day on translating variable expressions. Students often need a little refresher on certain key words and phrases. We practice converting between algebraic expressions and word phrases. The biggest struggles for my students at a math 7 level tend to be turn around words/phrases such as 'less than' and 'subtracted from.' My students also struggle with phrases that involve parentheses (ex: two times the sum of a number and three). I make sure to spend a little extra time on both of these concepts.

The Death of X

This happens to be the time of year when we make the decision that x as a multiplication sign is no longer allowed in the 7th grade math classroom. Using the multiplication x along with variables can become quite confusing, so it just has to go. We have a brief funeral and determine that the bullet (•) will now be used for multiplication. I have a math graveyard in my room where I place various tombstones throughout the year. Check out my tombstone for ol' multiplication. It will be missed.


I have used two sets of notes when teaching translating variable expressions. One set is digital, while another set is a PDF paper/pencil version. The digital notes include a slide where students will click and drag 26 words/phrases to their matching operations. On the second slide, students will translate word phrases into algebraic expressions and then algebraic expressions into word phrases. I have linked the digital notes to the image shown.

The second set of notes is included in the 5-part lesson plan associated with translating variable expressions. It is linked at the bottom of the page.


I typically use a leveled activity when working with my students on this concept. Students work through various aspect of translating variable expressions. They discuss key terms, write algebraic expressions, write word phrases, complete and error analysis and even work through a few real-life scenarios involving expressions.

This leveled activity, both sets of notes mentioned above, a practice worksheet, a problem of the day and an exit slip are all included in my 5 part lesson on translating variable expressions. If interested, click on the image shown.