I told them the equal sign was like a balance. In order to use the equal sign, both sides had to "weigh" the same. All of a sudden, I saw nodding heads, smiles, and light bulbs. What an empowering moment as a teacher!
I just finished a product to help build fluency with addition and subtraction facts through 20. It also is designed to help your kiddos understand the meaning of the equal sign. There is a recording sheet, so this would be a great math center or math review activity.
If you would like to take a look, click here.