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Teacher Materials:
Chalk and chalkboard or marker and white board
1. Draw an equal sign (=) on the board. Ask students if they
know what the symbol means. Explain that it is an equal
sign, which means that it shows when two numbers are
equal or are the same amount.
2. Write 2 + 2 = 4. This means that 2 + 2 is the same as or
equal to 4. Ask students if this is true.
3. Write 2 + 3 = 7. This means that 2 + 3 is the same as 7. Ask
students if this is true. Explain that when you have an equal
sign that the numbers on one side have to be the same
amount as the numbers on the other side or they are not
4. Write 3 + 3 = ? and ask students what number should go on
the other side to make it equal.
5. Write 4 + ? = 9. Ask students what number would go in the
blank to make both sides the same amount.
6. Repeat with a few more problems putting the blank space in
different parts of the equation.
7. Write 1 + 3 = 2 + ? Remind students that an equal sign
means the same amount. First, we add 1 + 3, which equals
4. Then we have to find a number that would make 2 + ? =
4. What number added to two makes four? Now the same
amount is on both sides 1 + 3 = 2 + 2.
8. Repeat with a few more problems putting the blank space in
different parts of the equation.
Balancing Act
What you need:
2 players
deck of cards, face cards removed
cut a 3×5 card in thirds. On two of the thirds write a + sign. On the last third write an = sign.
Shuffle the cards and deal six cards to each player. Stack the rest of the cards facedown in a pile.
Each player chooses four cards from his/her hand. The object is to balance the equation by
arranging the cards into two addition problems with equal sums. A player earns one point for
balancing the equation.
Example: a player could place a 7 and a 1 on one side of the equation and a 3 and a 5 on the
other (7+1 = 3+5)
A player can also place two cards of the same value on the equation to balance it (4+0 = 0+4).
At the end of a round, the cards played are placed at the bottom of the deck. The dealer shuffles
the cards and gives six more to each player. Play continues in the same way.
The game ends when one player reaches ten points.
Variation: Children can play a similar game using subtraction or addition and subtraction.
Change your “operation cards” so that children can create various balancing equations.
Teaching the meaning of equal sign
Here’s how I sequence my lesson to develop pupil’s understanding of the meaning of the equal sign.
Actually the lesson uses the context of the meaning of equal sign to introduce the students to the
meaning of variable intuitively. The students enjoyed it and they said they loved the
thinking. Scaffolding was done through questions that engages pupils in reasoning and making
decisions. Note that the emphasis of the lesson is not on computations but on thinking and problem
I first wrote the equal sign on the board then said What does the equal sign mean? You may use an
example to explain your answer. One boy said it means you add or do the operation and provided
this example 2 + 10 = 12. I asked the class who agrees with him and 25 out of 35 showed hand.
What about in 15 + ____ = 21 + ____? One girl said “It means balance” and explained that 15 plus a
number balances with 21 plus another number. When I asked the class who agrees with her 30 out
of 35 raised their hand. Everyone’s eyes was on me, waiting for me to say which meaning of equal
sign is correct. I just gave them a wink to heighten their curiosity.
Now that I got them all thinking, I asked: Do you think you can put just any two numbers in the
blanks? With this question I successfully divided the class into two camps: those who say yes and
those who say no and everyone is challenged to prove themselves right or prove the other wrong.