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Pre-Algebra: Pan Balance Equations Essay

The lesson has a clear purpose which is transmitted during lesson presentation. The teacher not only makes the purpose clear in her planning, but she makes it clear to the students through questioning techniques in which she guides the students into coming up with the purpose themselves. The teacher’s goal was to prepare this group of 5th graders for pre-algebra they will take in 8th grade. The purpose of the entire series of lessons becomes even more clear as each lesson progresses. The students are learning to replace objects in the pan balance with variables so that they can solve simple algebraic equations.

The students are continually guided in the direction of the goals and objectives of the lesson. It is their own choices and solutions that get them to the goal. The lesson refers to background knowledge and information from previous lessons. The teacher begins the first lesson in which she introduces the pan balances as a way of solidifying in the students’ minds the meaning of “equals” in algebra. She prompts the students with questions about their prior knowledge and experience with the pan balances, which the students liken to see-saws.

She allows the students to explain the concept of a see-saw based on their playground experiences. She also taps into the student’s prior knowledge of mathematical operations and word problems. Throughout the lessons she refers back to concepts brought up and learned in previous lessons and previous days. The lesson has a clear delivery method(s) (e. g. , direct instruction, indirect instruction, cooperative learning, inquiry, self-directed learning). The teacher uses a variety of delivery methods.

Her introduction is a combination of class discussion and direct instruction. She then allows students to demonstrate, and echoes their words and actions and invites further participation from other students. In the initial examples she directs the discussion and exploration, but as the students engage further, she allows cooperative learning in which students help each other think through the problems and examples within the direct instruction. Students also write in journals as part of indirect instruction, and work problems on their own.

The lesson addresses a variety of learning styles and intelligences. The teacher continues to use questioning and cueing with individual students as they participate in the exploration of problems in the lesson. Not only is she adjusting her methods for the diverse learning styles in the classroom, she is allowing the students to exercise their thinking skills without worrying about their methods or the “correct” answer. Chanting is another method used for another diverse learning style in the classroom. The teacher is extremely sensitive to her students’ needs.

Students use different materials as well; manipulatives (the pan balances themselves), journals and workbooks with drawn representations of the balances. The physical items, discussions, small group activities, journal writing, and direct instruction in solving the problems targets visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learners. The lesson provides for assessment of understanding. TO EXPEDITE THE GRADING PROCESS Assessment of understanding was continual throughout the lessons. The teacher continually asked, cued and chanted to check understanding of the concepts during direct instruction as well as small group work.

She also allowed students to check each other. This method was very successful in that students supported each other in the quest for understanding and solution. The lesson did not focus on a paper and pencil, formal assessment. Instead, the goal was for this concept and experience with pan balance equations to become the prior experience and knowledge that will be tapped later when the students are in Algebra. Through the teacher’s informal monitoring and assessment, she could ascertain understanding of her diverse learners.


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