A few weeks ago, I sort of made my husband famous when I wrote about how he and I had each solved a problem about a good deal. I had used an elegant solution, to quote Cathy Fosnot, and he had used the long division algorithm, which was just fine, also to quote Cathy Fosnot. (You can hear the whole thing here.)
I had occasion to ask my husband to solve some math problems again this week, and I thought I should make sure that everyone knows he is my go-to double-checker. His methods may be old-fashioned, but he gets the job done.
I have applied for a Teacher Learning Leadership Project grant (TLLP) and am pretty close to getting it approved (I HOPE!!) At the beginning of the month, I received a request for some clarifications about the project, which is apparently what they do. Makes sense. I am asking for just shy of the maximum allowed amount of money, so I’m actually glad to know they are making sure people are being fiscally responsible with this money.
One thing I was asked to do was to make sure my budget aligns with the project goals. I went over the entire thing with a fine-toothed comb, making sure I had the right number of days, and had figured it all out properly. I have to account for the number of days each member of the project will be out of the classroom, and how much it will cost to provide coverage for the class. My principal is joining, so I have also had to account for the extra money paid to a “teacher in charge”. One member of our group doesn’t actually teach at my school, so I have factored in some mileage for her. Even though I’ve been over it a few times, I needed someone to double-check it all for me.
I suppose you could say we worked as a team here. I gathered the information we needed, and organized it into problems. My husband, new to using an iPhone took one look at the work I needed him to do, pointed at his phone and asked, “Does this thing have a calculator on it?” I showed him, and he proceeded to answer each question on it’s own.
Again, the interesting thing here is that he didn’t see that he could solve one and use it to solve the others. The 4 day option is double the 2 day option, but he didn’t use this. I think I am paying extra close attention to this right now because in my class we have been talking about splitting. If we know that 40 + 50 = 90, then we don’t have to start over to solve 44+50. We know it is 4 more than 90! For some people, this might not be a huge revelation. But for me, when I first learned to do math without using algorithms, these important connections between problems were completely missing. The only time I used anything like this was when I figured out 3 x 7 = 21 (for example) and then found all the 3 x 7 or 7 x 3 on a Mad Minute and wrote 21. But I wouldn’t, for example, notice that if I knew 3 x 7 = 21 I could use that to help me with 3 x 8.
Connecting is one of the 7 mathematical practices in the Ontario Mathematics Curriculum: Grades 1-8 (2005). On page 16, it says:
Experiences that allow students to make connections – to see, for example, how concepts and skills from one strand of mathematics are related to those from another – will help them to grasp general mathematical principles. As they continue to make such connections, students begin to see that mathematics is more than a series of isolated skills and concepts and that they can use their learning in one area of mathematics to understand another. Seeing the relationships among procedures and concepts also helps develop mathematical understanding. The more connections students make, the deeper their understanding. In addition, making connections between the mathematics they learn at school and its applications in their everyday lives not only helps students understand mathematics but also allows them to see how useful and relevant it is in the world beyond the classroom.
Since I have started to focus on teaching students to see the connections in math, I have noticed an increase in their over all number sense. For many, as soon as they see a connection, it’s like a switch was flipped and they “get it”.