Has Algebra turned your kid’s world “Topsy Turvy” ?

It was a busy day at NumberNagar® with students coming in for their sessions and it so happened, that one of my students came in with a rather dull face that day. All she said was “Oh Ma’am! I need help in linear equations. It’s very confusing”. I am sure all of us would have expressed such despair at one point of time or the other when dealing with this dreaded topic “ALGEBRA”.

Yes… welcome to the world of Algebra!!!  Where finding the elusive ‘X’ seems like an impossible task.  Children get started with Algebra at around grade 5 or 6 and many find it uncomfortable when numbers are replaced with letters.  Take a look at our genius Calvin here solving a problem in Algebra.


Wish solving problems in algebra was as straight forward as this ….. Hah.

Many kids feel like their world has turned “Topsy-Turvy” when dealing with symbols or alphabets instead of numbers while doing maths. They are overwhelmed by the weird rules for manipulating these symbols. Sorry to say that, “Gone are the carefree days when they could connect numbers and the four basic operations to real life situations with ease, be it shopping for toys and candies or keeping track of their scores while playing cricket”. Here on the X’s and Y’s are going to rule their world.

Unlike Arithmetic, Algebra is abstract and deals with generalised situations. Many children ask me – “Why should I add X and Y?” or for that matter “Why should I even find the value of X?”.  Even though Algebra has many real time applications in other branches of Science, at this age children are not able to relate to the bigger picture. Their mind is filled with confusion and vagueness which finally leads them to hate the subject.

You see I wanted to add some fun element into linear equations and I came up with this TOPSY TURVY HOUSE activity which my student liked and acknowledged that it helped her understand linear equations better.

Analogy of TOPSY TURVY HOUSE to solve a Linear Equation in one variable

  • A house has two areas – inside the house and outside the house. Each equation has two sides – Left Hand Side (LHS) and Right Hand Side (RHS).
  • The ‘=’ symbol is compared to the door of the house.
  • When variables or numbers move from one side to other, their sign (or operation) changes, since the house is “TOPSY TURVY” one for E.g. Addition changes to Subtraction, and Multiplication changes to Division and vice versa.
  • In this activity we build simple linear equations considering objects in and around the house like number of people, number of flower pots etc.

 How can we solve linear equations using TOPSY TURVY HOUSE?

  • Student is asked to form a linear equation for a given statement problem. E.g.: “There are 6 chairs outside the Topsy-Turvy house. Twice the number of chairs inside the Topsy-Turvy house when subtracted by 4 is same as the number of chairs outside the house.
  • Student needs to find the number of chairs that are inside the house.
  • Equation formed from the above clue is 2x – 4 = 6.
  • Draw a house with door on one side as shown in the picture and write the LHS of equation inside the house and RHS outside the house.
  • In order to represent the equation use the number tablets and magnetic numbers.Now move the Variables, if any, from outside to inside the house by changing their signs.


  • Now move the Variables, if any, from outside to inside the house by changing their signs.
  • Move Numbers from inside to outside the house by changing their signs.
  • Continue the previous step till all numbers are moved outside the house.
  • By the end of the activity there is a variable inside house and a number outside the house.
  • Yey ! The value of the variable x which is equal to 5 is the number of chairs inside the house.
  • So dear teachers, do try this activity and let me know if your children like it.

    My student loved this activity. Physically moving the number tablets and changing the sign tablets in a step by step manner, helped her understand the process of solving the equation better.

    I believe most teachers will be able to relate to this quote from Robert John Meehan – “Teaching children is an accomplishment; getting children excited about learning is an achievement.” A toast to all teachers that excite children to learn!

-Jyothi Giri, Facilitator, BRAINSTARS

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