Understanding the Equal Sign
Understanding the meaning of the equal sign can be a challenging math lesson in first grade. Today I am sharing some whole-group and center activities to help your first graders grasp this math concept. While this concept can be tricky, it can also be a lot of fun to teach! It is amazing what first graders can understand with a bit of repeated practice.
The Equal Sign is Like a Teeter-Totter or Balance
We want students to understand that the equal sign means that both sides have the same amount or are “equal”. Often comparing it to riding on a teeter-totter or playing with a balance scale makes sense for students. It is helpful if students have had experiences with trying to make teeter-totters or a balance scale balance by having equal weight on both sides. If you have balance scales in your classroom, let students experiment with them during this unit of study.
Whole-Group Activity for Understanding the Equal Sign
A pocket-chart is one of my favorite tools in the classroom. They are so versatile and can provide many hands-on experiences where students can be actively engaged in the learning process. Once students have a solid understanding of what addition is, we can introduce this activity where the sum comes on the left side of the equal sign. Then, have students help you find 2 addends that are equal to the sum.
Next, we can move to having two addends on both sides of the equal sign. This can be a tricky level for students to understand. Work with students to solve the sum for the first side of the equation. Then you can work together to find another fact that equals the sum.
Learning Centers for Practicing Balancing Equations
Once you feel students have a good grasp on an activity, you can move that activity to a learning center. You could continue to use a pocket chart and the same activities. Another option are these fun math mats.
In this activity, students have a visual of a balance scale to remind them they want both sides of the equation to be equal or the same. There are 3 levels of balance mats: a traditional addition model, sum first, and two addends on each side. Progress through the mats throughout the year.
The traditional addition mat can be introduced early in the year, as soon as you have begun studying addition. This way, we are building this balancing model from the start! Next, progress to the model with the sum on the left side of the equation. Finally, introduce two addends on each side of the equal sign.
Add Student Accountability to Centers
Want to add a level of accountability to your math center? Use a simple worksheet that students turn in to keep them on task and accountable for their learning. There are 3 interchangeable worksheets included in this resource.
Want to learn more about this resource? You can check it out in my TPT store.