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Valerie Priller

Joined: 03 Jun 2003
Posts: 15
Location: Elkhart

 Posted: Thu May 11, 2006 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reassuring teachers! Does anyone out there have some stellar arguments that I can provide my new EM teachers on the idea of computation. They retort over and over and over how students can't add, subtract, multiply, and divide so why are we teaching them such complex mathematical concepts? I have said my peace, but maybe someone has some magical words to help teachers understand the premise behind EM. Thanks for any great words of wisdom. Val Priller
Jennifer Senkmajer

Joined: 03 Jun 2003
Posts: 24
Location: Mathematics123

Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 9:26 pm    Post subject:

 Valerie Priller wrote: Does anyone out there have some stellar arguments that I can provide my new EM teachers on the idea of computation. They retort over and over and over how students can't add, subtract, multiply, and divide so why are we teaching them such complex mathematical concepts?
First of all, many people do not realize that our U.S. Standard algorithms are not standard around the world. Other countries use different algorithms. Also, the Teacher's Reference Manual states a startling statistic: 60% of 10 year old children in the U.S. do not accurately subtract with trades! That, on most grading scales is a D-! Why would we keep forcing an inefficient algorithm at our students if we want them to be successful?

As for kids not being able to add, subtract, multiply and divide... I have never seen students catch on to multiplication and division as quickly and as accurately as I have with students in my upper grade classrooms when I taught partial products, lattice and partial quotients. Partial products and partial quotients really help students understand the operation on a whole new level. Some kids eventually abandon them for the standard algorithm (it is the method their parents model at home), while others stick with the "new" ways. As for partial sums... it prepares kids for mental math and strenghtens their number sense. The partial sums (products, etc) algorithms are much like the front end estimation we used to teach in traditional texts. However, they actually find the correct answer, not just an estimate. Trade-First has kids focus on each skill (regrouping first, then subtracting) rather than switching gears for each place value column. This eliminates many errors for most students.

I have found that as an adult I switch which algorithm I use based on what I am doing, where I am (do I have paper/pencil handy?), if I am tired and not very focused, etc. Of course, it has taken me several years to get this comfortable with the various algorithms.

Not all the algorithms must be mastered... only the focus ones. When students have more efficient algorithms to choose from, they have an opportunity to discover where their strengths lie. It empowers them to have choice. It gives them confidence when they become successful when they find the algorithm that works. It teaches them that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that the people who build off their strengths will be successful.

That said, I have, with a very few special education students chosen to teach only the focus algorithms, so as not ot overwhelm them. If the chosen algorithms did not work for those couple of individuals, I would introduce an alternate to see if I could help him/her find a more effective algorithm. Generally, however, I found my special ed students and my struggling students to love finding a way that makes sense to them to solve problems.

I will get off my soap box now... It is likely that I will wake up at 3:00 a.m. with another stellar argument! Stay tuned!

Jennifer
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