Power of Patterns

by mrcfmoore

http://ispeakmath.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/discovering-negative-numbers/

I choose this post because I find myself having problems explaining and conceptualizing ‘easy’ math concepts (by easy I mean concepts that I have been doing for so long I do not remember learning them, subtraction, addition, multiplication, division, negatives etc.).  I was TOCing in a grade one class and I was to teach them about subtraction.  The class had no problem with 8-3, but as soon as I asked 18-13 the class was at a loss.  Finally student said ‘it’s 5’, I said ‘thats correct, how did you get that?’ the student said ‘I don’t know 18-13 is 5, that’s the answer.’  I struggled with her in trying to find a way to explain her thinking.  My brain does not have a conscious step by step process when it comes to simple subtraction, how can I explain my thinking to the grade ones.  

The use of patterns in the blog post to explain the concept of negative numbers is great.  Starting with things that are ‘too easy’ can be a risky proposition (as you can lose some of kids before you reach the ‘light bulb moment’), but I think it can really work with younger grades K-8.    I really appreciate Julie’s hate for math rules….. It sucks the life and fun out of math.  I don’t think ‘rules’ lead to conceptual understandings, rules are boring and rules are “made to be broken.”  

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