“What is equality?” asked Marcus to his class.
A student raised her hand. “It is about having equal protections under the law of the land.”
“Very good. Any others?”
“It is treating everyone with the same respect and dignity,” said another student.
Yet another student chimed in. “You read everyone’s words and actions as though they were yours or a family members.”
Marcus smiled and nodded. “Those are all good answers, but I was thinking more like this.”
Marcus went to the whiteboard and picked up a marker. He wrote in large script ‘2+2=4’ Then on the other board he wrote ‘3+6=9’.
The students laughed at what he had done and Marcus took a mock bow before continuing. He pointed to the first equation. “In the first equation, everything on the left hand side of the equation is the same, and so are both sides of the equation. Everything here is equal.” He circled the 2+2=4 and then underlined it.
Marcus move to the second equation. Using the marker, he pointed to the six. “See, here six is twice the size of three. That Is definitely not equal, and yet in the end of the equation,” here Marcus circled the 9, “the numbers are equal. Not only that, but if I wrote this.” Marcus wrote a big ‘x + y = 9’ on the board. “Do you know what x and y are?”
“Three and six,” said a student.
Marcus nodded, but then rotated his hands in circles around each other. “But that was you using pre knowledge. If I hadn’t shown you the previous equation, would you know what x and y are?”
Most of the students shook their head no. Marcus’ smile grew bigger. “You see, that is my point. Sometimes we focus on the left hand side of our equation, and there are times we need to do so. We want to be as equal as we can be, but there are different gifts and knowledge sets, but at the end what is important is this.” With that he circled all three of the equal signs. “No matter what the values are here.” Once again he underlined the two 2’s, the 3, and the 6. “Sometimes the equality of the whole is what ultimately matters.”
A young man’s hand shot up. “But what does that mean for us?”
“Well that’s for you to find out,” Marcus said as he pointed at the student. Then he pointed all around the class. “That is part of your homework. The other part is trying to apply this mathematical understanding to everyone and everything you see. And you thought you were in just a basic pre-calculus class.”