What pupils think about the equal sign, “=”

I gave a set of questions to a group of Grade 6 and 7 pupils in a public school. Here are two of the questions.

Question 1 73 + 49 = ___ + 47 .

Question 2 43 + __ = 48 + 76.

Some pupils wrote 122 in the blank in Question 1. Others wrote 5 for Question 2.

Obviously, these pupils lack understanding of the meaning of equal sign. For them, “=” means do the sum or do the operation. Who can blame them? For all the time they have been doing numbers, their teachers have probably been asking them to answer these type of task.

Kinder: 2 + 6 =
Grade 1: 35 + 24 =
Grade 2: 943 – 202 =
Grade 3: 7,473 + 6,738 =
Grade 4: 94, 578 – 35, 475 =

Indeed it is only logical to think that the “=” means do the operation. But that is not the meaning of the equal sign. That is not even half correct. It is 100% incorrect! Writing 2+6 = is even an incorrect way of setting the task. It reinforces the wrong meaning for =.

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One Response to What pupils think about the equal sign, “=”

  1. Pingback: What is algebra? Can you teach it without the x’s? « keeping mathematics simple

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