Sunday, July 23, 2017

Math Thinking Skill: The 96 x 2 vs 92 x 6 question

Last week, Dolly asked while I was driving if "96 x 2 gives the same answer as 92 x 6". Typical of me, I asked her to share with me what she thought first, and also promised that after she had at least tried to explain to me, I would show her.

She did not have an answer straightaway but for the rest of the journey, she was working it out. There was a lot of mumbling and thinking out loud. Haha....

By the time we reached home, she had worked it all out by herself that the two equations will not yield the same answer. Her exact words were...

"96 x 2 is 2 sets of 96. So 90 +90 is only 180 and 6+6 =12. So it is only 192.
92 x 6 means there are 6 sets of 90+2. So 6 9-tens is already 540! So the two cannot be the same".

(In upper Pri Math representation, we know 96 x 2 should be 96 twos but at this age, it is fine to think that 96 x 2 = 2 x 96).

Considering she is not 6 years old yet, I must admit I was really thrilled and proud that she was thinking this way.

Dolly has been very interested in learning Math concepts in the last 12 to 15 months.

Just like with my boys, I did not set out to teach her any Math concepts in isolation. I just leave that kind of teaching to her kindergarten.

Instead, I usually present inter-disciplinary scenarios as part of her lapbooking activities that require her to apply Math concepts. Those activities that she was introduced to in my K2/Primary 1 Bright Minds Lapbooking classes are challenging and very different from those simple ones introduced in her kindergarten.

She enjoys them so much that she begs me for more scenarios sometimes. Haha... I must admit it is so satisfying to know that kiddos are so intrigued and motivated to learn by the activities that I have painstakingly designed.

To me, to acquire a head start advantage in Math is not about doing repetitive questions or practise questions from assessment books that are one or more years ahead.

It is about training the child's mathematical thinking and communication skills. Once the child is strong in these skills, you can throw any questions to them and they will have the confidence to use logic and reasoning skill to work their way through.

I also think that  too often adults are distracted by the ideas pushed forward by the "Make Learning FUN or Kids Won't Learn" advocates and thought kids need colourful books and worksheets, expensive games and manipulatives or prizes in order to be motivated and excel in Math.

I beg to differ. In fact, I strongly disagree.

It’s not about making math fun. Games and prizes are just quick fixes.

Instead, it’s about encouraging the sense of accomplishment that comes from deep understanding of difficult concepts. It’s all about making the process of learning Math meaningful. Once kids realise how and why the Math concepts they learn can help solve a meaningful problem or situation, suddenly, it is not about learning a silly Math question and plucking a figure from air, but about using their reasoning skill to derive at a solution.









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