5 + 3 = ____ + 5
As I walked around I noticed that on 21 out of 25 papers, students wrote 8! What?! So I pulled out all of the conceptual things that I could for the next few days:
- I drew a scale under the equal sign to show that you needed to “balance” the two sides of the equation.
- I asked two people to come up to the front of the classroom, held an equal sign up and put two people on the other side.
- I drew a line through the equal sign to see if it might help them see the two sides as separate.
- We talked about the commutative property of addition, that the addends can be in any order and it will give us the same sum.
4 + 8 = _____ + 8
I couldn’t believe it, but 17 out of 25 students still put 12! I was seriously ready to pull my hair out. It dawned on me that I was dealing with a major misconception. These third graders have seen math facts their entire life written like this:
4 + 8 = 12
So I started to ask some questions. I finally uncovered the fact that they thought the equal sign meant, “the answer is”. That was when I decided to connect the equal sign to something that would go straight to their hearts stomachs. Candy always does it, right? So the next day I whipped up a quick Smartboard document in place of the review. I had them bring a dry erase board, a marker and an open mind to the lesson. I told them that they would just need let go of all of their thoughts about the equal sign and answer the questions honestly. Here was the first image I showed them. I asked them to write "Y" for yes and "N" for no on their dry erase boards.
So I put up the next slide:
It is SO important that we dig deep to find misconceptions. I think it is very easy to simply move on from tough concepts because we fear the fact that we may not get through all of our curriculum. But something like this is so essential for their math future, spending a little time on it now will save time later. This whole lesson was only about 10 minutes long, but saved so much time for future lessons.
Jen is a third grade teacher with 8 years of experience teaching elementary students. Her passion is teaching math with a focus on conceptual knowledge through real world projects and rigorous problem solving. You can find more teaching tips and resources (and hear about how much she has learned from her mistakes) at her blog: Beyond Traditional Math. You can also connect with her on Pinterest, TpT, Twitter, and Facebook.