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Balance Beans

How it works

If you start with some beans in particular positions on a seesaw and you're required to place certain additional beans on the seesaw, can you place these additional beans so the seesaw balances? Given an initial arrangement of beans on the seesaw, can you figure out whether or not the seesaw will balance?

In this activity, students explore various arrangements of beans on the seesaw and develop strategies to figure out which arrangements make the seesaw balance and which ones don't.

Intro handout
Challenges handout
Additional Challenge Cards
Balancing handout

Why we like this activity:

  • It’s fun! Getting the seesaw to balance is very satisfying.

  • It helps to develop physical reasoning.

  • It requires students to engage in mathematical habits of mind:

    • Making observations about when the seesaw is balanced and when it isn't.

    • Making and testing predictions about when the seesaw will balance.

    • Finding and using strategies to add pieces to the seesaw to make it balance.

    • Understanding and explaining why certain arrangements of beans make the seesaw balance and others don't.

  • It has a low floor and a high ceiling: Students can start exploring through trial and error, but as the challenges get more difficult, it's helpful to start thinking more deeply about how and why certain arrangements make the seesaw balance.