The role of balance scales in supporting productive thinking about equations among diverse learners

Ana Stephens, Yewon Sung, Susanne Strachota, Ranza Veltri Torres, Karisma Morton, Angela Murphy Gardiner, Maria Blanton, Eric Knuth, Rena Stroud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This research focuses on ways in which balance scales mediate students’ relational understandings of the equal sign. Participants included 21 Kindergarten–Grade 2 students who took part in an early algebra classroom intervention focused in part on developing a relational understanding of the equal sign through the use of balance scales. Students participated in pre-, mid- and post-intervention interviews in which they were asked to evaluate true-false equations and solve open number sentences. Students often worked with balance scales while solving these tasks. Interview analyses revealed several categories of affordances of these tools for supporting students’ productive thinking about equations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalMathematical Thinking and Learning
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research reported here was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Award # 1720129. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Early algebra
  • balance scales
  • elementary grades
  • equal sign
  • mathematical tools


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