Last month, we were working on understanding equality as balance in relations to numbers and equations.

During the first lesson, I handed out the number balances and gave the class about twenty minutes to explore this new apparatus.

After exploration time was over, we gathered into a sharing circle and each student was asked to share one thing they noticed and one thing they wondered about the number balances.

After our sharing time, we headed back to the number balances to explore some of our wonders.

This lesson led nicely into a problem solving lesson using the book Equal Shmequal.

This problem evolved from a study group that I was a part of in 2009/2010. The study group explored communication and mathematical problem solving. We spent the year creating problems, often linked to picture books that were open ended, focussed on problem solving and children communicating their learning in a variety of ways.

Equal Shmequal is about animals wanting to have a tug- o- war. But all of the animals are different sizes, so they try to sort out how to make both sides equal. From the book, I posed the question, "How many different ways can you arrange the animals so that they can balance on a see saw.

I like to see all of the different ways the students make sense of the problem and show their learning.

I really like how you incorporated the number balances. You cannot get more concrete than that... and I especially liked how the students were allowed to 'play' for the first 20 minutes and then tell you what they noticed and wondered about the balances.

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