In this lesson, the balance beam model for multiplication will be
demonstrated using an actual balance beam. The best type to use is one
with hanging weights, but you can modify the directions if you have
only pan balances available by enclosing sets of weights in baggies.
Display a balance beam and review with children how it operates.
Ask a volunteer to place 3 weights at position 2 of the left arm of the
balance beam. Then ask, "Where would we need to place just 1 weight on
the other side so that the beam balances?" Accept and try all student
responses. When the correct response of 6 is given, ask students to
record this using the equation 3 × 2 = 6. (If a balance scale is being
used instead, this same demonstration can be completed by placing
3 baggies with 2 weights in each baggie on the left side of the pan
balance; then, 6 baggies with 1 weight each can be used on the right
side to create balance.)
Repeat these steps with other multiplication facts as necessary.
Students can also use the Pan Balance—Numbers Applet to create multiplication numbers for a partner to solve.
Pan Balance—Numbers Applet
For example, on one side of the pan balance, a student could
enter 7 * 3, and the other student would type 21 on the other side. (Note:
The applet requires the use of an asterisk (*) instead of × to indicate
multiplication, because the standard keyboard does not include the
Next show children the Product Game. Then, play a sample game with them, using volunteers from the class.
The Product Game Applet
As students work in pairs, they should find other multiplication equations with the balance beams or play the Product Game. Students can also use number facts (4 × 3 = 12, for example) to play a "paper version" of the Product Game.
Allow the students to use both electronic tools until the class
period is nearly over. Then call them together to discuss the
experiences they have had that day using the Questions For Students section.
Questions for Students
1. When you modeled an equation on the balance beam, what did you do first? Then what? How did you record this?
[Student responses may vary, but they should be able to model the steps covered in the first part of the lesson.]
2. Suppose you put a weight on the 12 on the right hand side of the
beam, and you wanted to put weights of 3 on the left hand side. How
many would you need?
[You would need 4 weights of 3; 4 × 3 = 12.]
3. How could you use the balance beam to complete this number sentence: 3 × _ = 15?
[Use three weights of 5 to get 15.]
- Which students met all the objectives of this lesson? What extension activities are appropriate for these students?
- Which students did not meet the objectives of this lesson? What instructional experiences do they need next?
- What adjustments would you make the next time you teach this lesson?
- Explore the balance beam model of multiplication.
- Write multiplication sentences in equation form.
- Use the inverse property of multiplication to complete multiplication equations.
NCTM Standards and Expectations
- Identify and use relationships between operations, such as division as the inverse of multiplication, to solve problems.
- Understand and use properties of operations, such as the distributivity of multiplication over addition.
Common Core State Standards – Mathematics
Grade 3, Algebraic Thinking
Interpret products of whole numbers, e.g., interpret 5 x 7 as the total number of objects in 5 groups of 7 objects each. For example, describe a context in which a total number of objects can be expressed as 5 x 7.
Grade 3, Algebraic Thinking
Fluently multiply and divide within 100, using strategies such as the relationship between multiplication and division (e.g., knowing that 8 x 5 = 40, one knows 40 ÷ 5 = 8) or properties of operations. By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.
Grade 4, Num & Ops Base Ten
Multiply a whole number of up to four digits by a one-digit whole number, and multiply two two-digit numbers, using strategies based on place value and the properties of operations. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.
Grade 4, Algebraic Thinking
Interpret a multiplication equation as a comparison, e.g., interpret 35 = 5 x 7 as a statement that 35 is 5 times as many as 7 and 7 times as many as 5. Represent verbal statements of multiplicative comparisons as multiplication equations.
Common Core State Standards – Practice
Model with mathematics.
Use appropriate tools strategically.
Attend to precision.