Monthly Archives: September 2009

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: 173 + 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 =.

why study mathematics

Mathematics is a language that can communicate visually and symbolically. It can express ideas that other languages cannot articulate with conciseness, clarity and precision. Mathematics is also a way of thinking that can empower an individual to be critical, creative, logical and methodical. Mathematics is a language and a way of thinking that everybody can and must learn.


Most mathematical concepts and principles developed from the need of humankind to understand, solve, and investigate problems in his day-to-day activities. In the present society, mathematics is one of the most powerful tool in understanding, and investigating problems in the real-world. This power of mathematics is due to the very nature of this discipline: it is both a language and a way of thinking.

All men are equal

A king addressed his subjects form the palace’s balcony: “All men are equal.”
One subject boldly asked: “What about kings?”
“All kings are equal, too”, quipped his majesty.

So much about equality.

 

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