The Balance Scale as a Math Metaphor


As students work their way through math in the elementary years, I notice one resounding thing they all have in common: they all write their answer to the side of an equation. Our grade 7 math program is a spring board to opportunities to take algebra but with multi-step equations, the grade 7 math year really aims to gets students to break out of old habits in math and start simplifying below an equation in steps.

I used some simple two pan balance scales as a metaphor for this model. Essentially, to keep an equation "balanced" you must do the same thing to both sides; albeit take 2 away from both sides or add 8 to both sides or take away "m" or add "n". For some students, the concept was a little weird.

Some students immediately got it. For some others, it is too great a paradigm shift and need a little more practice. Although one might argue that the end result is the most important thing in math, good problem solving habits set a good foundation for better skills development later on.

With this, some students more practice than others, but with enough practice, I'm confident they'll eventually come around. As anything in education, it's a process.

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