Solving Linear Equations: The Yo-Yo Problem

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In this math lesson, learners explore linear patterns, write a pattern in symbolic form, and solve linear equations using algebra tiles, symbolic manipulation, and a graphing calculator. The lesson begins with the presentation of the yo-yo problem. Then learners complete a hands-on activity involving a design created with pennies. Algebra tiles are introduced next as learners practice solving linear equations. Finally, learners return to solving the yo-yo problem.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Graphing calculator and overhead unit
  • Overhead projector
  • Overhead algebra tiles
  • 31 pennies
  • Set of algebra tiles
  • Graphing calculators


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Patterns
      • Variables and Expressions

Informal Categories

  • Financial Literacy
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, PBS, 2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education