Balancing Equations vs Sign Change


I was showing a fellow teacher DUDAMATH on Friday. It was all going well until this teacher, who I respect greatly, recoiled in horror.

When you drag a term in an equation in DUDAMATH, and drop it on the other side, it changes the sign of the term. 4x becomes -4x.

‘Next you’ll be moving the decimal point!’ came the agonised voice of this fellow teacher. This fellow teacher also happens to be a member of our teaching and learning team. She knows her stuff.

This sparked a lively debated in the maths office. I’ve always been told to show students balancing equations. Another teacher pointed out that in his view balancing equations was essential, as it preserves the shows the fundamentals of the equals sign. This is something that is not explicit when using inverse operations.

Another teacher pointed out that when students who are taught inverse operations come across equations with unknowns on both sides, they struggle.

I’m undecided. I get that balancing is good, but I like maths because I enjoy using a variety of methods to get to the same answer.

Maybe students need a plurality of methods in order to learn. Maybe the best method depends on context. I ran a Twitter survey on this, but no one replied. I’m bad at Twitter.

Add your thoughts below the line.