Sunday, June 21, 2009

Binary Anyone?

I was talking to a mathy adult that I know a week or so ago. Just to give you an idea of what kind of guy I'm talking about...he ran across a fact about the earth's rotation (I think) in his kids' science book that he thought was wrong, so he's been trying to work on a mathematical equation (at a calculus or higher level) to disprove the fact. Just for fun.

Anyway, I was talking to this guy, getting an opinion about a math curriculum I'm thinking/planning on using with Sam for high school math, when he suggested I teach Sam binary and other bases. So I did.

It took about 15 minutes to teach Sam binary and how to covert numbers between decimal (the numbers we normally use) and binary. He spent part of the rest of the day, and several days since, practicing. The next day, he figured out base 3 and base 7 on his own. Then he tried out base 14 but got it wrong. It took about 3 sentences to explain that he was wrong, why, and how it should be done. He can now do hexadecimal (base 16). The kid GETS math.

An interesting thing about this was that I never understood binary myself until about two weeks ago. After thinking about it, I figured out why it was such a mystery, so hard for me, before but so easy now. It's our math curriculum: Math-U-See.

Math-U-See is very strong on teaching place value, something that most math programs don't teach well. I never realized how important place value was when it came to understanding and doing math until we started using Math-U-See. It made so much sense, and made mult-digit multiplication and division make sense. Rather than just following the steps, as taught, you understand (I'm mean really understand) why it works. It is this understanding of place value that allowed me, and my son, to understand binary so easily. After all, binary is no different from the numbers we are used to working with, except the value of each place is different.

And THAT is another reason I like Math-U-See so much. I highly recommend it!

Stumble Upon Toolbar