HSE Math: Unit 7

students working together at a table

Equality (teacher support)

Equality is a fundamental concept in algebra. It is noted through use of an equal sign, represents a relationship of equivalence, and can be conceptualized by the idea of balance. Despite the importance of the equal sign, there is tons of research that shows that students often have serious misconceptions about what the equal sign means.

Many adult education students think the equal sign means “the answer” or “what you get when you do the operation.” This association of the equal sign with “the answer” as opposed to understanding it as signifying balance or equivalence can be especially problematic when students encounter the symbol in algebra.

The problems in this unit were chosen to help students understand the meaning of the equal sign. This is not something we can just tell students and expect to fully take root—they have a deeply-seated misconception that isn’t suddenly corrected because we say it is so. These activities are intended to help draw out students’ intuitive sense for keeping things in balance and connecting that to the formal use and notation of the equal sign.

Read the full Unit 7 document.