This paper reports a systematic literature review of the balance model, an often-used aid to teach linear equations. The purpose of the review was to report why such a model is used, what types of models are used, and when they are used. In total, 34 peer-reviewed journal articles were analyzed, resulting in a comprehensive overview of described rationales for using the balance model, its appearances, situations in which it was used, and the gained learning outcomes. Some trends appeared about how rationales, appearances, situations, and learning outcomes are related. However, a clear pattern could not be identified. Our study shows that this seemingly simple model actually is a rather complex didactic tool of which in-depth knowledge is lacking. Further systematic research is needed for making informed instructional decisions on when and how balance models can be used effectively for teaching linear equation solving.