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#14457  04/23/08 09:32 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: Ania]

Member
Registered: 10/19/07
Posts: 175

I do agree with Ania that there are so many other beautiful math subjects that get ignored. Discrete math is wonderful and can be taught on many levels. Set theory, logic, probability, number theory, and graph theory are just a few of the topics that would appeal to elementary kids.
I have mixed feelings about teaching calculus to elementary kids. I think the theory is goodteach kids through problem solving and not through mindless memorization. I also think some elementary kids can grasp the basic concepts of rates of change and limits. However, problem solving in calculus is very dependent on algebra skills, and I'm not sure that many elementary kids would really be able to do it. I think that exploring limits and rates of change (the very basics) without getting into real differentiation and integration (which requires knowledge of algebra and functions) is worth a shot.

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#14458  04/23/08 09:36 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: LMom]

Member
Registered: 09/19/07
Posts: 6145
Loc: Midwest

Well, it's not calculus without algebra, exactly. Algebra is one of the math areas we would deal with along the way. But even that won't focus so much on the how to do it as the broad concepts.
I know I'm not explaining this at all well... *sigh*
I think you are thinking about it as traditional teaching, and it just plain isn't! I wish I had a better way to explain it, but it's teaching the broad concepts using physics so the young kids (like DS6) see calc in action, *not* teaching the equations. Does that make more sense?
Think about it as getting your feet wet, not diving into equations and howtos right off the bat. It's about seeing calculus (or algebra or geometry) as a way of solving real problems, not about getting everything about each branch of math at age 6.
Am I making it better or worse?
_________________________
Kriston

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#14460  04/23/08 09:40 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: Kriston]

Member
Registered: 01/05/08
Posts: 830

Kriston, I don't think I expressed myself well in my first post due to my disappointment in our schools math curriculum, "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space". The person who spoke about it so highly is our son's gifted teacher, and her description sounded a good deal like you described.
In a homeschooling situation I can see it working extremely well. In a group setting I see a good bit of frustration. "Investigations" does use a lot of real life examples to discover the properties of arithmetic, geometry, and some beginning algebra notation. Where my frustration is coming from is how it's implemented in a group setting. For example, some of the third graders are still grasping how you calculate the perimeter & area of their kitchen table by measuring it with their ruler  that really was a problem on his homework recently. GS8 is ready to calculate the perimeter & area of our pastures, multiply the estimated forage yield by the area, divide that by the estimated forage use per head of cattle(which he gets by multiplying 3% of an average estimated weight of animal), and estimate how we should subdivide the pastures into paddocks so the forage is removed in a proper amount in approximately 3 days, then move the cattle to the next paddock so the grazed paddock can regrow.
I had no concerns about "drill & kill" when making him take a couple days to memorize his multiplication table but I have a big concern about how many more times he's going to be asked to measure the length and width of an object before everyone else in the room 'gets it'. Right now I'm looking at these 'real life experiences' as being "drill & kill" for GS8. Unless there's a real application, like calculating grazing capacity, GS8's going to be working on his standup comic routine in class.
As a method for introducing new concepts, what Dr F recommended is great. Just understand it can be "drill & kill" when used repetively, too!

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#14461  04/23/08 09:50 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: Kriston]

Member
Registered: 12/14/07
Posts: 902

Dr. F gave some examples of just this sort of intuitiondeadening, cym. People who figure 100/8 by doing long division in their heads, for example. That's not the "natural" way to do it; it's learned. And sometimes that learning can kill the intuition. Do you mean that whoever can figure out 100/8 in their head or just whoever does it the same way like long division on the paper? Just asking since I assume pretty much everybody can figure out 100/8 in their head (whatever way they do it), including DS5 and I don't think it kills his math intuition by any means.
_________________________
LMom

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#14470  04/23/08 10:43 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: OHGrandma]

Junior Member
Registered: 01/21/08
Posts: 44

I liked what the math guy said, but it's difficult to actually do, I think. One thing I can say is there are a lot of kids I tutor who are decent at math, but have no idea what they are actually doing (in Calculus). I do think the basic tenets of Calculus can be taught to interested children (but like others said, it may have to be someone who really understands this stuff in depth!). Calculus is about rates of change. One example off the top of my head, if one draws a curve on graph paper, if many rectangular boxes are drawn under the curve, we can show we have an estimate for the area under the curve, which is the integral.

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#14474  04/23/08 10:54 AM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: Dazed&Confuzed]

Member
Registered: 10/02/07
Posts: 1603
Loc: Sparta, apparently

OK I haven't read this article in it's entirity  let me say that upfront  but it sounds like it might be relevant to this topic. Lockhart's Lament and then there's the "think" method (as espoused by Professor Harold Hill in Music Man). Sorry all, I've only read the first page, but couldn't resist!
_________________________
kcab

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#14478  04/23/08 12:14 PM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: kcab]

Member
Registered: 05/26/07
Posts: 1783
Loc: West coast, USA

As a mathematician, I just wanted to post some random thoughts after reading this thread. I decided to major in math because it was the easiest subject for menothing had to be memorized! I am not good at rote memorization but I could "see" how to derive formulas from first principles. I did learn my math facts in grade school but it wasn't exactly by rote. It was more that I repeatedly thought about them until the answers were clear. For example, 7+8=15 because 8+8=16 and 7 is one less than 8. This process builds upon itselfi.e. at some point I had to become convinced that 8+8=16 before I could use that to conclude that 7+8=15. After a while, I felt that I could skip the reasoning part and just go straight to the answer. I remember having "aha" moments like understanding long division as repeated subtraction and how to find the area of a triangle. I was not discovering these things, however. The teacher was presenting that material. Still, there was a moment where I "got" it. In order to get a concept, a student has to make a habit of understanding each step in the process. If we try to replace understanding with rote learning it introduces a gap in the chain of reasoning. Rote learning can be a useful tool for increasing math fluency. But it should never be a substitute for "getting" a concept. Lately, I have been teaching third graders fractions. Their teachers had told them that a fraction represents a certain number of parts out of the total number of parts. This is true, but it doesn't seem to be intuitive to third graders. My approach is to look at math like a language to learn. When we cut something into pieces we give those pieces a name depending on how many pieces we made. (You would be surprised at how many kids are not making this connection.) I.e. if we cut something into 4 equal pieces we call each piece a " fourth". In math language we write that as "1/4". "A" means "1" and "/4" represents "fourth". Now if we have 3 such pieces we say we have "three fourths". That is written "3/4". This lays down the foundation for understanding how to add fractions. Now that we really "get" what a fraction means, the only thing that makes sense is to count up how many of each kind of piece we have by adding the numerators. If we need to cut some of the pieces into smaller pieces so that all the pieces are the same size, it makes sense to do that. Now many of your kids are already beyond this kind of thing. My point (I think I have one ) is that verbal reasoning can be used to understand math as a language for representing real problems. This is SO important for kids to understand. The way math is taught in school you would think that the math and verbal domains were completely seperate. I think that GT kids have the ability to intuit this connection. Mathy kids don't need to have things translated for them this way. Exposing kids like this to math is like immersing them in a foreign language. They will soak it up. Exposing them to calculus at a young age is like letting them read books with big words in them. They may not understand them right away but that's ok. My son seems to be a mathy kid and he LOVES that Descartes' Cove program. He can't solve the problems on his own but it is still a good teaching tool because it is exposing him to what is possible. My own dad did stuff like that with me, like showing me how to use his slide rule, teaching me about logarithms and exponents and teaching me Newton's method for approximating square roots. We also did set theory and Venn diagrams which I loved. No, I did not completely get the stuff he was teaching me until I was older but I think that early exposure was very valuable and helped to lay down pathways in my mind for future understanding. It also whetted my appetite for more math! I teach a mathlab at my kids' school where my main goal is to expose the kids to stuff beyond arithmetic. This kind of enrichment is beneficial to kids at all levelswithout it, math just seems like an arithmetic wasteland to them and they lose interest. Cathy

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#14479  04/23/08 12:19 PM
Re: Math intuition, math without books
[Re: Cathy A]

Member
Registered: 10/19/07
Posts: 175

Cathy, As a fellow mathematician, I just want to thank you for your comments. I completely agree, and I never had to memorize anything either.
I also agree that math is very verbal, and I think that's why my DD9 is so good at it. That's how I teach, too!

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