What Does ''Equal'' Mean?

Contributor: Veronica Barna. Lesson ID: 10618

Would you rather have 4 quarters or 1 dollar bill? If you find 10 dimes and your friend finds 4 quarters, who has more money? These sound tricky, but you'll be "equal" to the task of learning about =!



learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Look at the coins and bill below. Which would you rather have?


  • Did you say that you would rather have the dollar bill?

If you did, explain why. Now, what if you saw this:


  • What does this mean? What do you know about =?

Most people think that = means the answer, but that's not entirely true. Even though you write the answer after the =, the answer is only correct if it has the same value or means the same thing as what is written on the other side of it.

If you are not completely confused yet, here is an easier way to understand. You see, = doesn't mean the answer. In fact, = is a symbol for the word equal, which means the same. So we call = an equal sign.

Think about some addition facts you may have seen. For example, 1 + 1.

  • What is another way of saying 1 + 1?
  • What if each number 1 represented one cupcake, like this:


When solving 1 + 1, we could say that we have 2 ones (or more simply, 2). So we can say that we have 2 cupcakes:


Notice that there are 2 cupcakes on both sides of the equal sign. That means that 1 cupcake + 1 cupcake = 2 cupcakes.

Let's investigate

Complete this activity to learn more about the equal sign:

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half.
  2. Lay the paper open so that it is in the vertical position with the long side going up and down.
  3. Lay 10 pennies in a row on one side of the paper, and put the dime on the other side of the paper.
    It looks like you have more money with the pennies because there are more, however, when you count up the 10 pennies, you really have 10¢, or $0.10.
  4. Write $0.10 on your paper above the pennies.
  5. Now, look at your dime.
    • How much is a dime worth?

That’s right! The value of a dime is $0.10!

  1. Write $0.10 on your paper above the dime.
  2. Now look at your pennies and your dime.
    • What do you notice?
    • Do you have any more money with the 10 pennies than the dime?


Both groups of coins are worth $0.10. Both groups have the same value and are equal amounts of money. This is what we mean by using the equal sign (=).

The videos in this lesson will show you all about the little guy pictured below, and how he likes everything around him to be the same:

equal sign

In the first video, you will learn a song about the equal sign. Enjoy the Equal Sign Song, from KinderBlossoms, as you learn!


In this next video, you will learn that the equal sign means “the same.” So, as you watch Joe Merrill's The Equal Sign, remember that equal means the same!


Now, listen to this song by Amanda Ellis: Equal means the same. You probably noticed that there were several pictures of things that were equal, or the same, like the 3 cars, both sides of the equal sign, and the two alligators.

Now, it's your turn to draw an equal equation.

Grab a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and some crayons and get creative. Think of a fun way to show that two things are equal. You can even dress up your equal sign!

Think back to the beginning questions and try another fun activity.

Would you rather have the 4 quarters or the dollar bill?

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half.
  2. Lay the paper open so that it is in the vertical position with the long side going up and down.
  3. Display the quarters in a row on one side of your paper.
  4. Count by 25 for each quarter: 25, 50, 75, and 100 cents. 100 cents is the same amount of money as $1.00.
  5. Write $1.00 on your paper above the quarters.
  6. Place the dollar bill on the other side of your paper.
  7. What is the value of the dollar bill? $1.00!
  8. Write $1.00 on your paper above the dollar bill.
    • Do you have more money with the 4 quarters than the dollar bill? No!

Both sets of money are the same, or have the same value!

  1. Write the equal sign, = in the middle of your paper between the quarters and the dollar bill.
  2. Read the number sentence that includes the equal sign: "Four quarters is the same as a one dollar bill,” or "Four quarters have the same value as a one dollar bill.”

The equal sign means the same or has the same value.

Try it one more way.

Take a blank piece of paper. Choose any color crayon you like and draw 7 circles on one side of the paper. Count the circles to make sure how many you have. On the other side of the paper write the number 7.

Your paper should look like this:


Now, take a sticky note or piece of paper and draw an equal sign on it. Put the equal sign right in the middle of your paper between the circles and the number 7. So now your paper will look like this:

  • Do you remember the math sentences we said about the pennies and dime, and the quarters and dollar bill?
  • Do you remember what the equal sign means?

Let’s make a math sentence for the circles and number 7. A set of seven circles is the same as the number 7, or seven circles equals the number 7. That means that the value of the items on the left side of the equal sign is the same or equal to the value of the items on the other side of the equal sign. Both sides have the same value, even though they look different.

Now, move on to the Got It? section to play a card game that equals fun!

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