Simplifying algebraic expressions – KS3 lesson without boring drills

What's included?

Three-page PDF lesson plan and PDF worksheet

Key Stage



Years 7-9


This free simplifying algebraic expressions lesson plan for KS3 comes with an accompanying task sheet.

Exercises are not the only way to improve students’ fluency in mathematical procedures. Sometimes you can develop the very same skills in a more exploratory fashion.

Simplifying algebraic expressions

Expanding brackets and collecting like terms to simplify expressions are perhaps not the most exciting of mathematical topics. However, students need fluency in these skills in order to solve equations and engage with more stimulating mathematical problem-solving.

Unless students take the time to master these skills, they will be at a disadvantage later. But how can we avoid lessons on algebraic manipulation descending into endless mindless drill and practice?

One way is to engage students in devising expressions that will simplify to produce a given result – in this lesson, the expression ‘5x + 8y’.

Restricting the possible expressions that you can combine to make this to five given linear binomials forces students to engage in some careful trial and improvement.

To find all the possible solutions, they will have to engage with negative coefficients, leading to plenty of opportunities for strengthening their skills in expanding and simplifying algebraic expressions.

Colin Foster is an assistant professor in mathematics education in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham. He has written many books and articles for mathematics teachers. Browse more of Colin’s maths lesson plans.

Browse our maths question worksheets for Year 7Year 8Year 9 and GCSE maths. Download a nine-lesson simplifying expressions PowerPoint. 

Simplifying algebraic expressions lesson plan and worksheet
Simplifying algebraic expressions – KS3 lesson without boring drills

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