I saw this idea shared on Instagram by @middleschoolandmacchiatos back in the fall, and was so disappointed that I saw it after I had already taught this concept to my 7th graders! Luckily, I also teach it to my 6th graders in the spring, so I used it with them recently and it was an unqualified success!
The video I’m going to share with you today is the perfect way to introduce combining like terms. I showed it to my students without giving them any kind of information on the topic beforehand, and it allowed them to discover the idea on their own!
In the video, a man places an order at a fast food restaurant that is extremely long, confusing, and repetitive. He and the person behind the counter go back and forth a few times repeating the order back to each other – my students were moaning and groaning through the whole thing. “Really, he’s going to say the whole thing again?” “Is he going to eat all that?!”
Here’s the video:
After showing the video (I stopped it around the 3 minute mark for the sake of time), I asked students what they noticed. They had lots of comments about the amount of food, of course, but in each class someone always suggested that the man could have made his order a lot easier by combining all of the items that were the same! They had essentially come up with the idea of combining like terms all on their own!
After someone inevitably gave this answer, I handed out a copy of the script (you can download a copy here) with the directions to make the order simpler. I gave them 5-10 minutes to work on this, and then we shared our ideas. Some students combined all of the cheeseburgers together, regardless of the special orders, while some tried to keep track of how many of each special request burger were ordered. They counted up how many total fries, large Cokes, small Cokes, and Sprites were ordered. Some used color to mark up their scripts, and some filled their paper with tally marks. Each student approached it a little differently, but they were all practicing the idea of combining like terms before ever being taught the concept!
After this introduction, I then gave a more formal mini-lesson on combining like terms and we applied the idea to expressions with variables. The great thing, though, was that the video really stuck with the students and I was able to refer back to it throughout the whole unit! When looking at the expression 7x + 2y, I could say, “Remember, we can’t put the x’s and y’s together because that would be like combining hamburgers and fries – you can’t order 9 hamburger-fries!”
I will definitely use this video from now on to introduce the idea of combining like terms! Do you have any awesome videos that are perfect for introducing a topic? I would love to hear about them in the comments!