Equal Shmequal


This is an activity based on the picture book Equal Shmequal

Specific Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will be able to explain their understanding of fair and equal.
  2. Students will be able to record the results of tug of war contests and see-saw balancing in diagrams and symbolic forms.
Description of Mathematics
  1. The meaning of “equal” is dependent on the context. Equal number is not always the same as equal weight or equal effort, or fairness.
  2. The equals sign is used to represent the equivalent relationship between the two sides of the equation.
Required Resource Materials
Equal Shmequal by Virginia Kroll

Long rope or thick cloth strip for tug of war

Playground see-saw or balance scale


Tug of Wars and See-Saws
This activity is based on the picture book: Equal Shmequal

Author: Virginia Kroll
Illustrator: Philomena O’Neill
Publisher: Charlesbridge (2005)
ISBN: 978-1-57091-892-6

A group of animals explores the idea of “equal” within the context of having to set up a fair game of Tug of War. Through various means they discover that equal numbers, equal weight, equal strength and equal effort can have different impacts of the game. The idea of a balance using a see-saw is used to create two equal groups according to weight. (1 bear and 1 mouse) = (1 wolf, 1 deer, 1 turtle and 1 rabbit).

Lesson Sequence:

  1. Prior to reading, warm up with some number story recording that uses objects and symbols. Emphasise the position and meaning of the equals sign and one side is balanced with the other side. Record this in different ways:
    4 = 3 + 1
    “four equals three plus 1”
  2. Share the book with your students stopping to record the mathematics on a page that has an “equation”.
    For example: 1 bear = 1 mouse
    Ask: Is that true if they are in a tug of war? It’s fair, 1 animal on each side, isn’t it? Should we say “equal” or “not equal” for this one?
    Introduce the symbols for equal (=) and not equal (≠).
  3. After reading, the book, explain to students how you can to have some tug of war equations. Create some different sides to your equations and record them in the modeling book. For example: so students with white socks and students with dark socks, or bare feet versus jandals.
    Will it be fair, will they be equal?
    Have a pair of students responsible for the modeling book to record the results as = or ≠. Test with a tug of war and record the answers. Try to get a couple of pairings that are very close to create some equal statements.
  4. On another day, or prior to the tug of war session, explore the same idea of recording equal and not equal relationships using a set of balance bucket scales or a see-saw in a playground.
    For example: 10 green counters = 10 red counters
    Ask: Why are they equal?
    3 whiteboard pens ≠ 3 pencils
    Ask: Why are they not equal? How can we make it balance, how can we make it equal?

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