A number balance, or math balance, is an excellent manipulative for learning and practicing math skills and encouraging mathematical thinking. Students of all ages enjoy playing with the number balance.
It can even be used to solve complex problems, as my brother-in-law discovered. In the process of building a kayak, he wanted to know how long the kayak cockpit needed to be and where the cockpit needed to be placed longitudinally, to comfortably accommodate his length and weight and his daughter’s length and weight, so that the center of balance would remain at the center of the boat longitudinally.
Why should you use a number balance?
A number balance allows a student to:
- visually see how numbers relate as he makes the balance level to solve problems
- see when he has the correct answer
- explore multiple solutions and think critically to solve a problem
- practice mental math strategies
What skills does a number balance reinforce?
A number balance can teach and reinforce:
- adding equal amounts to either side of an equation
- grouping numbers into groups of ten (place value)
- more, less, and equals
- commutative property
- 3 + 2 = 2 + 3
- 3 x 2 = 2 x 3
- associative property
- 2 + (6 + 3) = (2 + 6) + 3
- 2 x (6 x 3) = (2 x 6) x 3
- distributive property
- 3 x (2 + 4) = (3 x 2) + (3 x 4)
Skill progression on the number balance
The number balance can be used by students of all ages. Allow your child to first experiment by randomly placing weights on the number balance. Ask him if he can make the balance level. Encourage him as he works by asking if he needs more or less weight to make the balance level.
When he is ready to learn his math facts, you can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on the number balance. You could also use it to visually demonstrate algebraic concepts. With experimentation and repetition, he will see the answer, learn his math facts, and think mathematically.
Play games on the number balance
We first utilized a number balance when my daughters were learning to add one digit to one digit numbers. As their skill progressed, my husband gave them harder problems to solve with more difficult parameters such as placing weights on one side to equal 56 and then asking them to make it balance only using seven weights on the other side.
This game usually took place after dinner. I wanted to replicate this during lesson time when he was at work so we worked together to create a book of games for the number balance that is both fun and challenging.
Level Thinking: Foundations walks you through how to use the number balance and how to play games that encourage mathematical thinking and practice math facts.
This post has been linked to:
Regain Control Of Your Homeschool
Use this simple strategy to deal with difficult homeschool days.
- Stop feeling overwhelmed and behind on lessons.
- Get back on track and gain control of your homeschool days.
- Learn how to avoid that drowning sensation in the future.
You will also receive weekly emails to help you find peace in a simple, intentional homeschool. If it’s ever too much, you can unsubscribe at any time.