Q&A #6501

Context stories to explain negative numbers

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From: Jeanne (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Jun 13, 2001 at 15:38:22
Subject: Re: Context stories to explain negative numbers


I do not have a great deal of experience in using this context; however, I 
thought I'd share a context a friend of mine uses with her middle school 
students. She talks about an absent-minded mail delivery person. He delivers 
checks (+) and bills (-). (This addresses addition/multiplication of 
integers.)  After they get a sense of addition and multiplication. She goes 
to talk about a particularly crazy week, the mail delivery man had to return 
to take away checks and take away bills. (This addresses subtraction of 

Example:  He delivers a check for $25 and 2 bills, $15 each. The net "value" 
is negative $5.   25 + 2(-15) = -5

Example: He delivers a check for $30, but has to take a way a bill for $20.  
The net "value" is $50.  30 - (-20) = 50


 -Jeanne, for the T2T service

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