Developing conceptual understanding of equality and equation in grade 8 algebra through inquiry based processes featuring the balance

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Law, David
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Over a three-week period in March and April 2015, I administered an action research project in a grade eight mathematics class. I addressed a need for comprehension of two term algebraic equations by applying inquiry-based learning practices to a series of lessons, beginning with allowing my students to create actual working balances in the classroom. I utilized these balances to explore depth of knowledge related to solving linear algebraic equations and the basic mathematical concept of equality. Through observations, collection of student work, field notes, and student interviews, I gained knowledge about how students learn the crucial concept of equality and how inquiry impacts their understanding. I synthesized this knowledge by identifying four components or “themes” that are crucial in helping students learn: (1) community and collaboration, (2) time and space to think and discover, (3) connecting hands-on and symbolic learning, and (4) multiple learning pathways.
Inquiry based learning, Balance, Grade 8 algebra