Combining Like Terms (Positive Numbers) Lesson Plan

Combining Like Terms (Positive Numbers) Lesson Plan


Ever wondered how restaurants communicate phone orders under pressure? Combining like terms is a critical skill that can help you simplify these expressions and tally up orders quickly and accurately.

Use this artistic, real-life lesson plan to teach your students about combining like terms. Students will learn about what like terms are, how to combine them, and how to simplify expressions in order to solve real-world problems.

The lesson plan includes artistic guided notes, a check for understanding, practice with doodle math and a maze, and concludes with a real-life application of combining like terms for restaurant phone orders.

Get the Lesson Materials

Combining Like Terms Guided Notes | Positive Numbers

Combining Like Terms Guided Notes | Positive Numbers


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Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define like terms and explain how to combine them

  • Simplify expressions using combining like terms

  • Apply combining like terms to real-world situations, such as restaurant phone orders

Note: This lesson plan features positive numbers only, and doesn’t cover the distributive property. See my distributive property lesson plan for that!


Before this lesson, students should be familiar with:

  • Basic algebraic concepts, including variables and coefficients

  • Basic arithmetic skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

  • Understanding of terms and coefficients (know how to identify parts of an expression)


Key Vocabulary

  • Like Terms

  • Coefficient

  • Variable

  • Exponents (Powers)

  • Simplify

  • Expression



  • As a hook, ask students why it is important for restaurants to be able to communicate phone orders quickly and accurately. Refer to the last page of the guided notes as well as the FAQs below for ideas.

  • Use the guided notes to introduce the concept of combining like terms. Walk through what like terms are, how to combine them, and how to simplify expressions using combining like terms.

  • Refer to the FAQ below for a walk through on this, as well as ideas on how to respond to common student questions.

Check for Understanding

  • Have students work through the problems on the first practice page, either collaboratively or independently.

  • Walk around and spot-check student answers on the check for understanding activity.

  • Based on student responses, reteach concepts that students need extra help with. If your class has a wide range of proficiency levels, you can pull out students for reteaching, and have more advanced students begin work on the practice exercises.


  • Have students practice combining like terms using the maze activity. Walk around to answer student questions.

  • Fast finishers can dive into the Doodle Math activity for extra practice (included in the

    Combining Like Terms Magic Lesson). You can assign it as homework for the remainder of the class.

Real-Life Application

  • Bring the class back together, and introduce the concept of using combining like terms for calculating expenses at a restaurant. Explain that restaurant orders can be represented as expressions, and that combining like terms can help tally up the orders quickly and accurately.


Additional Self-Checking Digital Practice

If you’re looking for digital practice for combining like terms, try my Pixel Art activities in Google Sheets. Every answer is automatically checked, and correct answers unlock parts of a mystery picture. It’s incredibly fun, and a powerful tool for differentiation. There’s winter and spring versions perfect for additional practice.

Additional Print Practice

A fun, no-prep way to practice combining like terms is Doodle Math — it's a fresh take on color by number or color by code. It includes 2 levels of practice, and is available free.


Want to try before you buy?

Try these 6 free activities for grades 3 - 7.

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