Phrases for Algebraic Operations

Subject: ESL/ELL (English Language Learning), Math

Lesson Length: 30 - 45 mins

Topic: Phrases for Algebraic Operations

Grade Level: 3, 4, 5, 6

Standards / Framework:


Brief Description: Students will identify key phrases in word problems to determine which operation should be used.

Know Before You Start: This lesson teaches signal words for addition and subtraction. You can adapt this lesson to address other algebraic operations as needed.


  • Read and discuss the first panel of the sample comic.


  • Continue reading panels two and three. As each panel is displayed, have students search for signal words that help them decide whether to add or subtract. 

  • As students answer, add these words to a signal word T-Chart.

  • Complete the same exercise for panels four, five, and six. 

  • Display the chart as a reference.

  • Have students create a word problem comic.

  • Have students work in pairs to identify the signal word and solve the problem in the other's comic.


  • Remind students that it is important to look for signal words or phrases in word problems to determine whether they need to add or subtract.


  • Allow students to use the speech-to-text feature.
  • Allow students to use the voiceover feature to read their comics aloud.
  • Adapt this lesson to the operation you want to target, e.g., multiplication, division, etc.


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