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In Hands-On Equations, why were the red cubes chosen to represent positive numbers and the green cubes negative numbers?

Category: Product FAQ Hands-On Equations

In Hands-On Equations, red numbered cubes represent positive numbers. When the program was first developed in 1986, the only numbered cubes commercially available were colored red. Hence, that color was chosen for the positive numbers. Although red was chosen out of necessity, the selection is a good one for the following reasons: 1) For young children in grades 3 – 5 red is a more attractive color than green and is a warmer color for beginning the program; 2) there are many instances were red is positive. For example, in a mercury thermometer, the more red the higher the temperature. The sun is red and is very hot. In weather chart, red is warm and green is cold. In electricity, the positive terminal is red.

The main reason why one might desire that red numbered cubes should represent negative numbers is that in accounting a red entry represents a loss. However, this reason should not overpower those mentioned above. Students very readily accept that the numbers on the red cubes, other than zero, represent positive numbers. We strongly encourage the teacher to work with the program as designed and work with the red cubes as positive. Doing so will be less confusing for the teacher, and it will be easier for the students to continue with the program in the next grade.

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