Math Background

Lesson: Interpreting Equations
Introducing the Concept

When introducing equations, it is important students understand that the expression on the left side of an equation should be equivalent to that on the right side. Thus, essential groundwork is developed when displaying an equation and labeling the left and right sides of the equation.

Materials: overhead projector or chalkboard on which to write

Prerequisite Skills and Concepts: Students should have a working knowledge of simplifying expressions using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

  • Ask: What does this symbol (=) mean?
    Place an equals sign on the board. Students need to be able to recognize this symbol. Do not assume that all of your students understand that it identifies equivalent values. Many students think that the equals sign is simply a prompt for an answer.
  • Ask: Can someone give me an example of when you would use an equals sign?
    Ask your students to come up with several examples. Select an example, such as 5 + 3 = 8, and write it on the board.
  • Ask: Describe what is on the left side of the equals sign. What is on the right side of the equals sign?
    Try to have students describe the numbers as well as the operation. The left side has 5 + 3 while the right side only has 8.
  • Ask: What is the value of the expression on the left side of the equation? What is the value of the expression on right side of the equation?
    The goal is for students to notice that the value on the left side of the equation equals the value on the right side of the equation.
  • Place another example on the board, such as 3 + 7 = 8 + 2.
  • Ask: What is the value of the expression on the left side of the equation? What is the value of the expression on the right side of the equation?
    The students should notice that the value on the left side of the equation equals the value on the right side of the equation. Generate a discussion of the differences between the first example and the second example. Discuss the fact that both sides of the equation have multiple numbers and an operation symbol. This helps students discover that for an equation to be a true mathematical statement, the values on both sides must be equivalent.
  • Continue with additional examples, using different equations.

Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 4