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        Using Variables in Simple Equations

        Students are introduced to simple algebra and are asked to solve for the value of different variables.

        Lesson Summary


        The students encounter a situation in which they must solve for the value of a variable. The equations are in the form of y = m x, in which m, x, and y are all whole number values. This CYBERCHASE activity is motivated by an episode in which the CyberSquad plays a game against Hacker to catch enough "gleamers" to power up the Cyberspace ship. If they win, they get the Encryptor Chip. But first, they must figure out the relationship between gleamers and power glows.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        1 hour

        Media Resources

        Find Those Gleamers QuickTime Video


        Handout: Gleamers and Glows
        Assessment: Level A
        Assessment: Level B
        Answer Key

        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity

        1. Read the following to the students: "The CyberSquad is invited to join Hacker's Game Show 'Find Those Gleamers.' Gleamers are firefly-like red bugs that give off energy measured in numbers of 'power glows.' The kids must find enough gleamers to power Hacker's ship, 'The Grim Wreaker.' The problems are: a) they do not know how many gleamers they need, and b) they do not know how many power glows are produced by each gleamer. With 3 gleamers (in 3 of the 5 slots), they produce 18 power glows. Watch how they use algebra to solve the problem."

        2. Tell the students that they will watch a video in which the CyberSquad tries to solve this problem.

        3. Show the Find Those Gleamers QuickTime Video .

        4. Distribute the Handout: Gleamers and Glows .

        5. Ask the students to work the handout.

        Note to teacher:

        the term variable has two related meanings as an unknown and as a quantity that varies. In this episode, b is an unknown in that the Kids know only that 3 gleamers produce 18 power glows. However, they write the equation as 3 * b = 18 and then solve for b = 6. They also find other pairs of values that make this statement true. However, mathematically, after solving for b, we would typically use the equation as 6x = y as a function in which the outcome (y = number of power glows) is a function of the input (x = the number of gleamers). In this alternative equation, 6 is the number of power glows per gleamer (or b in the previous approach). In the second approach, x and y function as variables in the sense of quantities that vary.

        Part II: Assessment

        Assessment: Level A (proficiency): Students are asked to figure out how many gleamers are needed for a certain power level. A second problem asks the same question but asks for gleamers that produce a different level of power glows per gleamer. The students are asked to express these problems with algebraic equations. 

        Assessment: Level B (above proficiency): Students are asked to solve several algebraic expressions.


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