I love activities that are super simple yet pack a powerful punch. This is one of those. But the even better news is that it covers a lot of standards in a fun and engaging way.
The main objective, however, is to teach the concept of equality in equations. The basic idea of an equation is that both sides of the equals sign need to have the same value in order for it to be considered valid, or true. Too often young students think the equals sign means and the answer is. It’s such an important foundational idea in algebra that it’s included as one of the Common Core Standards in First Grade:
Work with addition and subtraction equations.
Understand the meaning of the equal sign, and determine if equations involving addition and subtraction are true or false.
So this activity is an easy and fun way to underscore the equality idea. Pair students up and hand out one expression card per pair. The students need to go around the room and find their matching expression.
An easy extension is to have two expressions already set up and then have students place in the correct symbol: <, >,=. (CCSSM: 1.NBT.B.3)
I also include blank cards so students can create the expressions! And I have a Grades 3-5 version available, too, which gets into multiplication, division, and order of operations.