How to Help Students Struggling with the Equal Sign

2 + 4 = ___ + 5 is commonly missed among younger students. They will often write 6 in the blank instead of 1.

Students often think that “=” means “solve” so they don’t understand that the two sides must balance.


The reason being is that the student sees the equal sign, and thinks it reads “solve.” So instead of recognizing that 2+4 is the same as 1+5, they simply solve for the problem they think they are being asked; 2 + 4 = 6

This misunderstanding in younger grades will lead to issues in upper mathematics when the student tries to solve equations, but doesn’t understand why the same operation must be performed on both sides of the equation.

Some Helpful Teaching Methods

There are many methods to help students with this misunderstanding.

1) Teachers can often mix up the order of simple equations.

Instead of always writing 2 + 2 = ?

Teachers can switch it up and write ? = 2 + 2


2) Teachers can change the words they use when reading math problems and coming across the “=”

Instead of saying “two plus two equals four,” teachers can say “two plus two is the same as four.”

3) Teachers can play games that help students understand this concept. Here’s an easy one:


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