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Hands-On-Equations®

Copyright © January 2008 by Henry Borenson, Ed.D.

Level I, Lessons 1 – 7

In any specific problem, all the blue pawns have

Lesson 1 the same value, and the scale is in balance when

both sides have the same value. Solve for the pawn

using trial and error and intuitive thinking.

The pawn has a special name, “x”. Transform the

Lesson 2 2x + x = x + 8 equation into its physical representation, using the

blue pawn for the x and the number cube for the

number constant. The two sides of the equal sign

become the two sides of the scale. Use trial and

error to find the value of x.

The legal move with pawns is introduced: we may

Lesson 3 4x + 2 = 3x + 9 remove the same number of blue pawns from both

sides of a balanced system (Subtraction Property

of Equality).

Subtract the same number value from both sides of

Lesson 4 4x + 5 = 2x + 13 a balanced system (Subtraction Property of

Equality).

Students take away pawns as part of the setup

Lesson 5 5x – 3x + 2 = x + 5 process: distinguishing the set up from a legal

move, which comes after the setup has been

completed.

The students learn that the number outside the

Lesson 6 2(x + 3) = x + 8 parenthesis tells us how many times the expression

inside the parenthesis is set up on the balance

scale. (Some students learn the distributive law

without being taught!)

Transfer the hands-on experiences of Level I to a

Lesson 7 4x + 3 = 3x + 9 pictorial system. The x’s are represented by shaded

triangles. The number constants by boxed

numbers. The scale by a picture of the scale. No

plus signs are placed on the scale, only pawns or

cubes.

Level II, Lessons 8 – 16

The white pawn is given the name of "star" and it

Lesson 8 2(3x + 1) = 2x + 10 is written as an x with a bar through it. Students

learn that the same legal moves that were

performed with the blue pawn may also be

performed with the side pawn.

Lesson 9 If x = 2, evaluate: The students learn to distinguish an expression

2x + x + x + x + 5 from an equation (two expressions joined by an

equal sign), and they learn to evaluate expressions.

The students are informed that x and star are

opposites of each other, and hence their sum is

zero (x + x = 0). [Property of Additive Inverses]

The students learn a new legal move: a blue and a

Lesson 10 3x + x = x + 4 white pawn may be removed from the same side of

setup. One hand is used in carrying out this legal

move [Addition Property of zero]

New legal move: We may add the same element to

Lesson 11 2x = x + 6 both sides. [Addition Property of Equality]

Lesson 12 2x = x + 6 pawn to the same side of a setup. We use one hand

to do so. [Addition Property of Zero]

Simplify the setup so that number cubes are on

Lesson 13 2x + x + 3 = 2x + 15 only one side of the setup; then work with the

pawns.

In order to subtract an element (blue or white

Lesson 14 2x – x = 12 pawn) not already on the balance scale, we add a

convenient zero in the form of a blue pawn and a

white pawn as part of the setup process, and then

subtract the element as part of the setup process.

Students learn to recognize the symbol (-x) as

Lesson 15 2x - (-x) + 4 = 2(-x) + x another name for star. The symbols “(-x)” is read

as the opposite of x. Students set up (-x) by using

the white pawn, just as they would in setting up

star.

The hands-on experience of Level II is transferred

Lesson 16 2x = x + 6 to a pictorial system using only paper and pencil:

the white pawns are shown as triangles which are

not shaded in, so as to distinguish it from the blue

pawn, which is shaded in.

Level III, Lessons 17 –

25

The students are introduced to the green cube as having a

negative value. Hence,

Lesson 17 (-3) + (+5) = +2 a red 2 cube and a green 2 cube, together, have a value of

zero. To add integers, students rename the cube with the

larger number so that one of the addends matches the cube

(+5) – (-3) = +8 with the smaller number, and together, these have a sum of

zero. The other addend gives the sum.

in the form of the subtrahend and its opposite. They then

remove the subtrahend and end up adding the opposite of the

subtrahend to the original number (the minuend).

The same legal moves performed with the pawns may be

performed with the cubes, e.g., we may add (or subtract) the

Lesson 18 x + 3 = -5 same value and color numbered cube from sides of the setup.

The goal is to isolate the variable (the pawn) by removing the

number constant next to it.

Add a convenient zero in the form of a red cube and a green

cube during the setup of the equation in order to subtract an

Lesson 19 x – 3 = -6 element not there originally.

Solve equations using red and green cubes as well as pawns

of one color.

Lesson 20 2x + (-3) = 5 + x

Solve equations using red and green cubes and blue and

white pawns.

Lesson 21 2x + 3 = -6 + x

Solve equations containing multiples of parenthetical

expressions involving the green cube.

Lesson 22 2(x – 1) + 4 x = x + (-8)

Subtracting a multiple of a parenthetical expression.

Lesson 23 x – 2(x + 2) = 5

Use blue and white pawns and the red and green cubes to

solve equations with the notation of “(-x)”.

Lesson 24 x – 2(-x) – 3 = 5 + ( -x)

The concrete experiences of Level III are transferred to a

pictorial system involving only paper and pencil. The

Lesson 25 2x + 3 = -6 + 3 negative number are represented by circled numbers

Note; Lessons 18 - 20, and 22-24 are NOT included in the Day1 Making Algebra Child’s Play workshop.

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