Teaching Fractions of an Inch
Date: 7/9/96 at 11:51:28 From: Anonymous Subject: How to teach the Inch Dear Dr. Math, I am a special needs teacher at the Addison Career Development Center in Middlebury, Vt. In many of the trades, but especially in Building Trades, we find students ages 16-18 who can't do linear measurements. Do you have any suggestions on how to best teach the "inch." We have tried a few texts but haven't been successful. Any books, handouts, etc.that you have found successful? Sincerely, Kay Doolan
Date: 7/9/96 at 17:24:25 From: Doctor Ceeks Subject: Re: How to Teach the Inch Hi, My first reaction is that the concept of distance seems to be something best taught if the notion is made visceral in some way. These concepts are associated directly with the real world, after all, and to have people learn them from books seems a little bit strange. I know I certainly did not learn these concepts from books, but from contextual usage in real life situations. I've never tried to teach special needs students, so I don't know what works best, but here is a suggestion of what I have in mind: Have the students build a baseball diamond. Inevitably, they will wonder how far apart to put the bases and need to think of some way of describing this. It doesn't matter whether they use inches at first. If they use pacing, or feet, or yards, whatever. It's the first thing to understand that distance is something which can be quantized and 30 yards or 90 feet or whatever is the same whether you're in Brooklyn or Honolulu. Alternatively, have them compete in a long jump competition...or compete in a limbo competition...they will have to think of someway of remember (recording) the height of the limbo bar for the next competition. Again, it doesn't matter if they use their own standard of measurement because the important concept of distance is its quantizability and its invariance. Once distance is understood, the inch can be introduced as a standard unit used by millions of people. The use of the inch has less to do with distance than with the problem of communication. -Doctor Ceeks, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Date: 7/11/96 at 12:37:34 From: Kay Doolan Subject: Re: How to Teach the Inch Dear Dr. Math, Thanks for the answer. I am taking a computer course and yours is the first reply I have ever gotten through E-mail. This is fun! However, I guess I didn't ask a very clear question. How do you teach a group of Building Trades students to measure to 1/16ths? How do you get them to read 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc? Thanks, Kay D.
Date: 7/11/96 at 14:8:52 From: Doctor Ceeks Subject: Re: How to Teach the Inch Hi, This is a very difficult question to answer without being directly involved with the students. There are so many facets to understanding fractional measurements that it is impossible to guess what each person is having trouble with (is it fractions themselves? Or could it be the problem that most things are not measurable in simple fractions? Or could it be technique in actually carrying out the measurement? etc) However, there are many concrete objects (wood planks, screw size, nail length, etc.) which demand measurements accurate to the 16th inch. Perhaps if you make them try to build something which demands such accuracy, they will be forced to understand the importance of measuring to the 16th inch. If you can describe in more detail what is happening with the students, Dr. Math can probably be more helpful. -Doctor Ceeks, The Math Forum Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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