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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Winter Themed Equality

I have been hard at work this week creating some new things for my first grade students.  I know it is a little early to be thinking about winter but we had snow last Friday morning and I wanted to see how my first graders are doing with ideas of equality.  Can they use the equals sign to balance two equations or do they think it just means the answer is coming?  I expose first graders to lots of ways to write equations during whole group instruction but our math program like many others has little to no practice in this area.  Here are some of the types of equations I am talking about

7 = 4 + 3

8 = 8

4 + 5 = 5 + 4

7 + 3 = 8 + 2

If students have not seen equations written like this, and I ask them if these equations are true, they will often say no.  I was thinking my first graders were getting these big ideas quite well.  I decided to seize the moment and take advantage of their excitement over seeing snow and gave them a quick formative assessment on equality that happens to have a fun penguin theme.

Students read the equations and circle T if they think the equation is true and F if they think the equation is false.  If you want to try this with your own students it is a freebie at my TPT store.  Click here to head over and download it!
Anyways.... The students did not do nearly as well as I had hoped.  There were several students who got most or all of the answers right but many other students demonstrated that they are still not sure about how to use the equals sign.  I tried some of these activities but still felt like they needed more.  It is all well and good to provide whole group and small group instruction around these ideas, but I wanted another way for students to use these ideas during our math stations.

So I created a set of equations on cards that can be physically sorted into true and false piles.  We worked on this as a whole class and I will be using the cards as part of math stations and partner/individual work time during the month of December.  I will give another formative assessment after a few weeks and we will go from there.

Here is a peak at us trying it out as a whole group
I used a pocket chart to hold the cards so everyone sitting in the discussion area could see.  We only got through 8 of the 18 cards on our first attempt at this because we had so many great math discussions along the way.  I pulled out the math balance during this whole group lesson and students loved using it to prove their thinking
Later last week, I pulled a small group who I felt needed more practice either due to the formative assessment or what they were saying (or weren't saying) during the whole group lesson.  We worked on sorting some other cards.  (I made the cards at 2 different levels to meet the needs of ALL my students).  Level 1 is addition facts to 10 and level 2 is addition facts to 20.  I held off on subtraction for now but will be addressing equality around subtraction in January.  I want my students to be solid here first. 

This was small group work so we put the cards on the carpet. 
Starting Monday, these sets of cards and the record sheet that goes with them will be added to my math stations for the next few weeks.  If you want to grab these for your own students, they are available here!

Here is a look at the record sheet for use during math station time
How do your make sure your students have a good understanding of equality?  Please respond in the comments below.


  1. I'll be working on this soon, and I'm pretty sure the kids won't know what they're doing at first. Thank you for the ideas.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. I just downloaded the Equality T/F Freebie! This is JUST what I needed for a 1st grader I am working with. Thanks, Tara! ;)