If you've been reading me for awhile you'll remember how much I love the equal sign.
It's, like, what we all strive for, right? Especially in math.....
You might also remember remember how much it drives me crazy that most folks think that equal means "give me an answer". I really hate this simple and flat job description the equal sign is misaligned with.
The equal sign doesn't mean "give me an answer". The equal sign means "both sides are the same".
I shudder when I think about algebra and how the poor equal sign in blamed for mysterious letters without quantity and confusion about how to get to the final destination of a math problem.
I really, truly believe that we need to eradicate this misconception about the equal sign as early as we can. It's really not so tough. Take this little group of objects....
You can well and truly teach the true identity of the equal sign with these few little things.
Start by explaining that the equal sign is a little tiny balancing stone. Choose a nice round, flat glass bead. This is your equal sign. Mark it with a sharpie and make it clear what job the bead needs to do!
An equal sign's real job description is Master Balancer. If it's got an equal sign in it, then both sides MUST be equal. You can demonstrate by (very carefully) putting a penny on each end. It's easy to show what happens when you create an unbalance by removing a penny or adding one on to a side. The equal sign can no longer do it's job.
You can teach this just as well with a pan balance, but kids LOVE to have their own little balance to play with. It creates a lasting memory about what an equal sign really means.
To give a little practice that goes along with this activity, I love to use this quick and simple activity sheet.