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History and Maths

If you have ever read the book ' What is History?' by E. H. Carr you may have come across the idea that 'History stops here.' What this mans is that some historians in the past believed that the History that they wrote was the definitive view; there was no other interpretation. Of course History is constantly being rewritten in the light of current ideas, attitudes and data.

The way I was taught is the only way, 'numeracy stops here'.
This is the view of many parents and teachers. They believe how they learnt to
add, subtract, multiply and divide is the only correct method to use, anything
else is ‘strange’, not ‘proper’ or at worst some kind of trick being played upon their child. None of
this is true of course. Each child has his or her own way of learning and
remembering things and once confidence is gained using their own method they
should continue using it.

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Subtraction

Jim, like many pupils could happily subtract when the sum
which looks like this.

However as soon as we introduce something more complicated
anxiety sets in, he had convinced himself that he couldn’t and never would be
able to remember how to in his own words ‘do it when the number on top was
smaller’. Such as in the example below. We have all been there as teachers or
parents with our pupils or children wanting to subtract 7 from 3 because they
can’t remember or don’t know why they have to do in effect 13 minus 7.

A succession of teachers had tried and failed to teach Jim
how to do subtract using the traditional method and failed, his parents
despaired also having failed to teach Jim how to subtract. He was now 16. Jim
is a bright lad, a visual learner, he wanted to subtract so that he could pass
his exams.

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Open number line

Jim was very comfortable with the open number line, so I
decided to show him how to use it to subtract. First I drew the line like the
one below and explained that we were at going to go from 17 to 43. I marked on
the two numbers.

Now I asked Jim to jump to the nearest 10 from 17, he
happily drew a line from 17 to 20.

How about jumping to the nearest 10 to 43 I asked. ‘What
40?’ he queried. He then drew the next jump and without prompting he then drew
the final leap.

So how far have you jumped I asked him to which he replied
26. It was then only a small step to make the connection between this method
and the subtraction su set out in the
traditional way. Jim was thrilled at being able to do subtraction with, as he
termed it, ‘difficult take aways’. He successfully continued to use this method
with ease and success, passed his exams and reduced his fear and anxiety when
tackiling Maths.

Many of you may dismiss using this method as not being
correct but it worked for Jim. It may not work for everyone but he was
successful and solved problems so who is to deny him, or anyone that but
adherence to other methods just because that was how they were taught.

*Why not follow me on
Twitter at @croftsr1*