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Q&A #18422


What operation should be taught first?

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From: Ralph (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Apr 09, 2007 at 13:17:29
Subject: Re: What operation should be taught first?

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you for writing to T2T. First of all, the "good news." :) Despite
many critics (most notably in Washington State), the evidence surrounding
the success of students using the Investigations program has been fairly
substantial, so it would appear your district made a good choice.  More good
news -- There's lots of evidence to support that the "best" sequence for
teaching concepts is the sequence that makes the most sense to the individual
teacher (i.e. teachers AND students "connect" things in different ways, and
so what's seen as "logical" to one might not seem so to another.) But it's
important that the sequence you select makes sense to YOU because that's when
you'll be most effective at connecting the concepts/topics in meaningful ways.

So, for example, you mentioned the "best" sequence for 2-D and 3-D geometry.
 While most of us likely learned geometry in a sequence that went from
"basics"  (points, line segments, rays, lines, etc.) to 2-D shapes to 3-D
figures, there's a lot of support for beginning with 3-D (real, "concrete"
objects), and examining their faces, etc. to learn about 2-D shapes.  Most
studies done on the geometry sequence show "no significant difference"
whether you begin with 2-d or 3-d, so again it comes down to what makes the
most sense to you.

I do have to admit that I haven't really heard of beginning with
multiplication and division before addition and subtraction, so I think I'd
be inclined, as you are, to switch those around, BUT (and I'm guessing here,
because here in Canada we don't have the Investigations program) perhaps the
reason for beginning with multiplication/division is that it allows for more
of the "investigations" for students than the addition/subtraction does??  At
any rate, there shouldn't be any real difficulty in your opting to change the
order, as long as you're on the lookout for any places in the program where
they might assume a "prior learning" that students wouldn't have with the
your altered sequence.

Hope this helps,

 -Ralph, for the T2T service

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