Q&A #782

Math Comprehension

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Nov 13, 1998 at 21:59:56
Subject: Re: Math Comprehension

Congratulations on homeschooling your children. This is a challenge. As a mother of five children it is something that I never attempted past the age of five. Barbara, you have asked some very interesting questions: 1. How much math is really necessary? 2. How important is long division? Be assured that my answers will be different from many other people. Ability to reason with quantifiable data is absolutely necessary in today's life. All of us have to understand probability, graphs, percentage, geometry. We have to understand calculation but we have tools to do the calculation for us. Once an individual understands the operations of addition, multiplication, subtraction and division and can estimate a reasonable answer, then I support the using of technology. Endless drills are not necessary or supported once a student reaches adolescence. I still do support knowledge of the times tables because this memory work helps with estimation. Imagine that your gas gauge is not working. You know that your car averages 25 miles per gallon and that your tank holds about 12 gallons of gasoline. If your odometer is now 42,560 miles, when should you purchase gasoline again. Estimated 25 miles per gallon for 10 gallons will give you 250 miles. If you purchase gasoline when your odometer reads approximately 46,000 miles, you will be ok. You cited the problem: 54733/64. Ask your son what is the closest number to 54733 which has three zeros. Is it 54,000 or 55,000? Hopefully he will see it is closer to 55,000. Is 64 closer to 60 or to 70? Try each. What is 55,000/60? What is 55,000/70? Estimate it as less than 900 and more than 800. Then use a calculator and get the exact answer of 855.203125. Why would anyone want to know such an answer in the real world? If they do, they would want to use a calculator. Your son does need to know more mathematics than just calculation. Calculation is a part of mathematics but it is not all of mathematics. How does he do with patterns, sequences of numbers, rules to find numbers, understanding a line on a graph? These are important skills. I wish you well. -Marielouise, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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