Monday, 23 February 2015

Equality and Balancing Equations

We have been working hard at really understanding the equal sign. Many students have misconceptions about what the equal sign means. Students often think that the equal sign means the answer comes after. We have been using the balance scale and looking at different types of number sentences to conquer this myth.

Instead of thinking about the symbol as only meaning equal, we have been using the words “the same as.” One side of the equal side is the same as the other side. That is what makes a number sentence equal, balanced, correct, true etc.

We used the balance scale to concretely show what the numbers on either side look like in cubes.

We looked at number sentences where the equal sign was in different places and again, used the scale to concretely show it. Some kids did not believe that you could write a number sentence different ways and think that it is only written as
____ + _____ = _____.

They have memorized facts and still need to work on solidifying their number sense and really understanding what the different parts and symbols mean in a number sentence.

9 = 1 + 8
1 + 8 = 9
1 + 8 = 7 + 2
9 = 9

During our small group sessions in Math Daily 5, kids worked on balance scale mats and cubes to show balanced equations.


We also continued to work on finding different ways to make a number. This helps us when we try to balance number sentences and a part or whole is missing.


If I have 4 + 2 = ?…………. I could put:

4 + 2 = 6
4 + 2 = 2 + 4
4 + 2 = 0 + 6
4 + 2 = 5 + 1

etc…because I know all the combinations to make a number.

Today we looked at another word to explain numbers that are balanced and equal.


We found out true means the same thing as those words and False means our number sentence is imbalanced and unequal.

I didn’t take any photos but we sorted number sentences as True or False…and if they were False, students had to explain how they could make it True.

Do your kids truly understand the equal sign is?


  1. Hi, Renee, was glad to see your post tonight. My kiddos are beginning to understand that equals means the same as after lots of experiences with the balance scale, true/false and part/part whole activities. We do a lot of frontloading in Gr.1 and often do not see the fruits of our labours!

    1. Thanks Jen! I still have kids who have misconceptions about it or can solve any number sentence but can not prove it !

      Definitely an important concept for digging deeper!

  2. Thanks for your post! Wondering if you have a copy of your balance scale mats to share?

    1. Sure! Send me an email and I will send them your way! (Too lazy to post them right

  3. I love this idea! I found you on pinterest. Would you mind sharing your balance scale mats? If so my email address is Thanks!

  4. Some of my kiddos are struggling with this. Would you mind sharing your balance scale mats (my email is I think they will really help! Thanks so much for this post!!

  5. Hi! Will you also email me a copy of the balance scale mats?

    Thank you and Happy New Year!

  6. I love this balance mat and your balancing equations free assessment!
    Any chance you'd be willing to share them with me to use in my classroom?
    Thanks! ~Melissa

  7. Any chance you can send me your balance equation mat ?

  8. I love this idea about balancing equations! Any chance you'd be willing to share your balance mat with me to use in my classroom? If so my email address is Thanks so much!

  9. Hi could I pretty please have the a copy of the balance mat for my classroom. My email address is Thank you!

  10. May I please have a copy of your mats for my math lesson. I am a student teacher getting observes so i like to use your maths for my visual learners.

  11. Love this! May someone share the mats with me please? My email is
    Thanks in advance!!! :)

  12. can i have a copy of the mats?


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