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Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Use of commas in math

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From: Timothy Potter

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2002020620:07:43
Subject: use of commas in math

I was looking for interesting math topics for my students and I happened upon this web site. It is just an opinion but I think that using commas in large numbers does more harm than good, and it is not consistent. It does more harm than good because children(and adults) often have poor penmanship. So that 32,785,121.056 may look more like 32.785.121.056. The problem is that I can't tell what they mean. Where is the decimal point and where is the comma. That is the harm, and the good is very little. The only good that I can think of is when using english number terminology, as in million, billion, trillion, etc. But using that terminology offers very little insight. It is not consistent because we don't use commas after the decimal point. Why not? There is no good reason that commas should be limited to the left side of the decimal point. I tell my students that commas are just a tradition and that most people don't use them anymore. So I would encourage them not to use them, but I don't mind either way. My alternative is what I was taught. Rather than put a comma, just leave a space, it is not confusing and it is easier on the eyes. For instance the above mentioned number would be, 32 785 121.056. Anyway, just an opinion. timothy potter

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