Q&A #19200

Negative numbers

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From: Claire (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jan 02, 2008 at 13:18:40
Subject: Re: Negative numbers

Hi, Dave -- Thanks for writing to T2T -- and for understanding that we do children a great disservice by telling them we can't subtract a larger number from a smaller one! It's important for children to understand that there are numbers less than zero, and how those numbers work. I live in northern New England, so the natural application that children experience is the temperature scale, probably the most useful connection for teaching negative numbers. Do you have a thermometer to show the class? It's about 20 degrees F as I write this, but the temperature is expected to dip by 30 degrees overnight! A number line that includes numbers less than zero is also helpful. Realizing that the numbers are symmetrical around zero, and that there is a corresponding number below for every one above, are important concepts. You might try introduce a scenario of a child wanting to buy something that costs $3, but only having $2. Is there a way they can buy it? Borrow a dollar from a sibling or parent, which they will pay back. They owe $1. I hope this is helpful. Please write again if you have more questions. -Claire, for the T2T service

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