Monday, January 12, 2009

The Problem with Having Me as a Teacher

My poor kids! They have me as a teacher. There's a problem with that. Or maybe it is a benefit.

I have a tendency to get distracted. This affects my teaching as well. You see, sometimes when I am explaining something, especially in math, it will trigger my thoughts on something else related to that which I am explaining.

For example:

Today, Mika's math involved learning to write a number in expanded notation. Don't remember what that is? It's when you write a number....say 87, this:


She wasn't quite getting it with the math-u-see video so I took her to the white board to explain it further. The primary problem was all those multiplication and addition symbols. It gets confusing. You naturally want to see it from left to right rather than as a set of multiplication problems that are then all added together. So, I threw some parenthesis in there to make it more clear.

So, what she saw was:

(8x10,000) + (7x1,000) + (4x100) + (3x10) + (6x1)

It's a little more clear written that way, isn't it? That reminded me of "order of operations" which I couldn't quite remember so I looked it up. It's do all the parenthesis first, then all the multiplication and division from left to right, then all of the addition and subtraction from left to right...if you really wanted to know.

So, I taught her order of operations and we did a few practice questions. She got it.

Then we went back to the expanded notation she was suppose to learn in the first place. I ended up telling her to write the number in place value notation first (something she's already learned and mastered) and then convert that to expanded notation.

It worked...except now she also knows a little pre-algebra...which she isn't suppose to learn for three more years still. Ooops!

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Luke Holzmann said...

Eh, I think that's a good thing.

In fact, when people tell me that Algebra is hard, I remind them that the first math problem we ever encounter is an Algebra problem:


That could just as easily be written as:

1+1=x solve for x

Start 'em young. Start it early [smile].