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My middle-school Hands-On Equations students have poor arithmetic skills. They need help in doing the check.

Category: Teaching FAQ Hands-On Equations

We are happy to hear that you are providing Hands-On Equations to your lower achieving middle school students. Very often, such students are not given an opportunity to work with algebra. Your students seem to be fine with the conceptual learning: the meaning of the symbolic notation, the mapping of the equation onto the scale, and the legal moves. Their difficulty is with the arithmetic in doing the check. Some teachers have reported providing their students with calculators and showing them how to use them to do the calculations. Another approach, is to use number facts they already know. For example, most students know how to count by 5’s and 10’s. Let’s say they need to figure out the value of five pawns if each one has the value of 7. In that case, the students can first assume the pawn is worth 5, so they get 25. They can then add 2 for each pawn (since each pawn is worth 7 and not 5), to get 35. The same approach would work using 10 as a base for counting, as illustrated below.

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