Ask a kiddo who has just written 2 + 3 = 5 if it’s okay to write it 5 = 2 + 3 and you’re likely to get an emphatic NO! Enter common core standard 1.OA.7:
Understand the meaning of the equal sign, and determine if equations involving addition and subtraction are true or false. For example, which of the following equations are true and which are false? 6 = 6, 7 = 8 – 1, 5 + 2 = 2 + 5, 4 + 1 = 5 + 2.
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A great hands-on way to introduce this concept is actually a pan or bucket balance.
Start by having students build two equations that both equal five using teddy bear counters. For example 2 green bears and 3 red bears for the first equation and 1 yellow bear and 4 blue bears for the second equation. Put the bears from the first equation on one side of the balance and the bears from the other equation on the other side of the balance. You can even put a sticky note with an equal sign on the base of the balance. The balance will, well, balance. Try this with other equations (“Hmmmm, I wonder if this would work for combinations for 6?”). Be sure to model some false statements, too.
When your kiddos are ready for a little practice, I made a mat and some cards they can use to explore different equations and determine if they are true or false. Notice that you still want to have manipulatives to connect the concrete learning with the abstract equations. The kiddos basically just take two cards, place them on either side of the equal sign on the mat, build the number, and determine if the equation is true or false. Students can record their work in their math journals, and if they also draw a picture to represent their equation, you are bringing in representation.
FREEBIE: Click here to grab a copy of the mat and cards (combinations from 5 to 10). If you download this activity and use it in your classroom, I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know how it went!