Approaches to Equations - At Right Angles Pullout

The topic of ‘Equations’ can be approached in several ways. The choice of approach has a strong impact on the conceptual image which a student builds about a given concept. Hence, the choice is crucial in helping a student in understanding the concept as well as in developing the procedure for solving the problems. However, every approach has its limitations and can be used only for solving certain types of problems. Its use is limited and it may become necessary to expose students to other approaches when the type or complexity of the problems alters. For the teacher, there are crucial decisions to be made: when and how to introduce the concept, and how much emphasis should be placed on the corresponding skills.

How does one introduce the idea of equations (without going into a formal definition) to students? An algebraic equation is an equality involving variables. In this article, I focus on two well-known approaches, the balance scale approach and the machine approach.

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