Thursday, June 26, 2008

Math

My fifteen year old son Antonio has never used a math curriculum. He has had questions answered, and things explained but he has never done a math workbook or worked through a math textbook or had arithmetic methods taught to him in a sequential, consistent manner.

My son Antonio is great with numbers.

Today he was working on the programming for a new video game. He wanted the gun that he was designing to fire on the diagonals. He was talking it over with me showing me what he was doing. Antonio loves to discuss his programming! Sometimes it is difficult for the rest of us to sustain an interest though because it is very much his passion. He said that the place the gun would be firing would be 45 degree and then he'd have to add 90 to get each of the other angles so it'd be 135, 225, and 315. He wasn't writing anything down...and he only paused a second after each calculation in his head. He didn't use an algorithm. He could just picture how the numbers related to each other and knew the answers.

I know there are other people like Ant, but in my experience tutoring highschoolers in math, they seemed few and far between. Although most schools now struggle to incorporate "number sense" into their curriculums, number sense is not something that can be taught. It is something that is acquired by living in the real world and using numbers when it is necessary in ways that are useful or interesting. Curriculums are good at helping kids learn algorithms...things like how to "rename" (what use to be called carrying and borrowing) and patterns and tricks to make arithmetic in workbooks easier. With the advent of inexpensive, widely available calculators, knowing how to do arithmetic easily isn't even as important as it once was. But the real truth is, that kids who naturally acquire number sense will be able to do arithmetic and apply what they are doing to the real world much better than if they memorize some algorithms.

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