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Number sense
Posted:
Dec 9, 1998 11:14 AM


In reviewing the Chapter 3 Overview to the Standards I feel there is a definite need for a standard on what is called "Number Sense." The first reference to this that I have seen is in an article by Joseph Mercer in Sept. 92 Mathematics Teacher titled "What is left to teach if students can use calculators?" Number sense is the ability of people to interpret the answers they get from caluclators or paperandpencil methods and determine whether the answer is applicable to the problem. Calculators give correct answers, but only to the problems plugged in. If the students do not know what the proper operation is or order of operations or even what numbers to use, they will get answers which make no sense.
I taught in high school for two years before returning to the University of Georgia for my Master's. I taught Applied Math and asked this question on a test: If there are 50 minutes in a class period, how many seconds are there? Calculators were provided and the unit we were completing was on convesions. We had spent two weeks in this section, doing a variety of activities. Some of the answers I got back were ridiculous. Several students answered "0.833333." They had taken 50 and divided by 60. Now if I asked them to interpret that I don't think they would have realized that they were saying the school day last approximately 6 seconds! Time is something relevant to all people, and for these not to understand the meaning of their answer shows that they have no number sense.
I appreciated the Standards 2000 in that in the Overview you can read in one paragraph the focus of K2, 35, 68, and 912. The problem with the old Standards is that if you were reading about the 912 geometry standard and you wanted to see what they focused on in 58 you had to flip back 60 pages. It is nice to see the flow here. Also I appreciate that the grades are now broken into four categories. I feel that standard dealing with number sense would be beneficial on all leveles.



