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Grades: 4‒7

This activity is the first of three balance activities in which students develop intuitive strategies for writing and solving simple algebraic equations. Students drag a shape whose numerical value is known onto one side of a scale. They then drag copies of a shape with an unknown numerical value to the other side of the scale until both sides are level. Students represent this relationship with a repeated addition equation, which they simplify to a multiplication equation. Students then solve the equation to determine the value of the unknown shape. These actions are repeated for each of the shapes whose value is unknown.

  • Students will use a scale to represent algebraic equations.
  • Students will understand that repeated addition can be expressed as multiplication.
  • Students will develop and use intuitive strategies to write and solve algebraic equations in which there is one unknown value.
  • Students will develop and use intuitive strategies to solve for an unknown value in cases where that value is only on one side of an equation.

Mathematical Practices

(1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them; (2) Reason abstractly and quantitatively; (3) Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others; (5) Use appropriate tools strategically; (7) Look for and make use of structure.

Content Standards

6.EE2, 4, 5, 6, 7; 7.EE4

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This activity is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License: If you adapt and/or share this activity, you must attribute it to "KCP Technologies, a McGraw-Hill Education Company." You may distribute it only non-commercially under the same or similar license.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under KCP Technologies Award ID 0918733, with grant period September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.