Monday, January 23, 2012

Doing new math

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I was working on homework with my youngest son the other night.  He's in first grade and we were doing math.  I encountered a problem that absolutely boggled me for at least 90 seconds. No, really.  It was a simple addition question, but the method my son is being taught is very different from the way I originally learned addition.  Students are being taught to make "tens" when they have problems in which the solution is more than ten.  Like this question: 8+5 would be figured out by adding 8+2 (=10) + 3(5-2) = 13. Now, I believe I've mentally being doing math this way for years, but it caused me to wonder are children being served by taking this eventually intuitive method of math away from them before they can fully grasp it?  And, like I asked when I was in geometry class, how do, we use this stuff when we grow up anyway?

Well, grown-up math is a bit different than algebra and geometry. (I can't speak of trigonometry or any other higher orders of math.  I never got there.) My favorite math class was algebra, probably  because it was word math.  Replacing variables in a sentence or problem, with definite numbers, and solving for a specific answer often expressed with words, flexed my brain and satisfied me.  As an adult, many of the word problems I encounter involve taking chances in life - accepting risk in the hopes of achieving an satisfying solution.   Counting on people to do what they promise and intend.  Weighing risks and odds and making the decision to try and solve for X. Will A + B - C = Happy?  Who knows?  Will it all add up?  

In life, (as in math) there are positives and negatives, and just because I've always been more a word girl than a numbers girl, please don't ever assume I'm not capable of doing the math.  I may not yet know the ultimate solution but I'm more than willing to show all my work.

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