January 27, 2005

Math Equations Lesson

This morning we had a great math lesson. I need to give Serona all the credit for the lesson and the creativity behind it. I have noticed that Rhiannon is getting stuck with the concept of equations and reading math sentences. If it looks at all different then she thinks it should it is hard for her to get her head around. Especially if the answer is on the opposite side of the equal sigh then she is expecting (ie 3=10-7 instead of 10-7=3). Last night Serona and I had a great conversation about how to illustrate it complete with him drawing examples on our chalkboard wall.

So I began by talking about the equal sign and what it really means and how both sides of the equal sign should be the same even if they are written differently. I used flash cards to illustrate this with each part of the equation on a different flash card (10-7, 3, =,) I made two sets of each and then an additional set that separated 10,-, and 7 on their own cards. I began by putting the cards in the usual order 10-7=3 and then talking about the equal sign. I was not asking her to do any answering of math problems during this lesson so she could just focus on understanding. Then I showed her how if we switched the numbers so it read 3=10-7 it was still the same. Then I took a second set of cards and showed both sets of equations on top of one another with the equal sign lining up


We talked about how those are math sentences and I had her read me both sentences until she could get it right. I handed her another set of flash cards with different problems (this time addition) and her go through the same process. After she got it I let her test me.

Then we added cuisenaire rods into the picture to show her it could be done with things other than just the numbers and to help her conceptualize it better. We placed the right rods on each part of the equation and then using the rods showed how the answers were even on both sides.

We ended this lesson by playing a game with the rods and only the flash cards of +,-, and =. She made problems for me to solve and then she had to reorder the equation so it still meant the same thing even if it was said differently. Then I made equations for her to solve and I had to rearrange them.

She finished math today by showing all the combinations that add/multiply up to 6 with her rods. She does not fully grasp multiplication she uses language more like if you have three sets of 2 it equals six and I fill in the multiplication language for her. I have no expectation that she would grasp this yet but it doesn't hurt.

It was a great math lesson and nice to be away from worksheets. It taught so many different lessons in a carefree way. It introduced concepts of algebra and word problems, illustrating that math can be a spoken language as well as a numeral language as well as represented by items. Try it at home if you have little ones.



  1. glad it went well. For the multiplication stuff, (for older kids) remember that the phrase "sets of" or "groups of" can be replaced by the (x) Multiplication sign when going from spoken sentence to math equation. So something like:
    "five groups of two apples equals ten apples"
    maps to
    5 x 2 = 10

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    When my oldest daughter was 5 (she's now 8 1/2) she also had difficulty with the concept of the equal sign. We explained to her that the equal sign means "the same as" and had her read the number sentence out loud using these words instead of "equals". We also used a primary balance (scale) with teddy bear weights. Using the example 2+3=5, for example, I would have her place the Papa Bear (whose weight was equivalent to five of the smaller bears, and had the number 5 printed on his belly) on one end of the balance. Then we had her place two bears on the opposite end, and finally add three more, until the balance was even. The balance also works great for other concepts such as "less than", "greater than", and "equal to".


  3. I'm curious what math program you use. We use Miquon and Singapore, and we are on Miquon Red right now. Miquon does a lot of switching around the equal sign. Andrew hasn't had any problem with that. Multiplication makes him think a little harder. I'll try explaining x as sets of and see if that makes it more clear.