Clearly I missed something in primary school math

Last night I went to an Early Childhood Education workshop on numeracy. Pre-math.

Now, I’ve mentioned before on my blog that my math isn’t so great. I’ve always blamed it on my synesthesia and the colours of the numbers getting mixed up.  Last night, I discovered that just might not be the case. Clearly I missed an important understanding of math.

The facilitator had to get us to do a few math problems so that she could make her point about learning and numeracy and where the preschool children have to get to.

The first question was “Harry has 3 cows and Mary gives him 5 more. How many cows does he have?

Easy, right?  Question for you… do you have 3+5=8 memorised? (I do.) or did you do this:

5-1=4 and 3+1=4 and I know 4+4 =8.

While you ponder that, here’s the next question.  “George has 9 lollies and Candace gives him 8 more. How many lollies does George have?”

Again, a long time ago I memorised 9+8=17.  (Or, rather, yellow +blue = black and purple)

But my son (7) does this:

8+8=16 +1=17

Ready for the next one?

“If I have 47 apples and Dad gives me 25 more, how many apples do I have?”

That was the sound of my brain screaming. Dutifully, I did the longhand:


But the other educators in the room were of course, faster than me. 

40+20 = 60 + 12 = 72
47, 57, 67 +5 = 72
47 + 3 = 50 +25 = 75 -3 =72

By now, my brain was really hurting.

And then the facilitator threw the big one at us.

“I have 5 baskets filled with 28 muffins each. How many muffins do I have?”

[Kermit panic flail] and Broot runs out of the room screaming. After I’ve been settled down, again I do it this way:

x 5

Which of course, everyone in the room found quaint. (And slow!)

5×30 = 150 – (5×2=10) = 140

28/2=14 x (5×2=10) = 140

Apparently, while the primary teachers never used to teach this method, students who thought out of the box were doing their sums this way anyways. Some of us (ahem, me!) never got that concept and therefore are pretty slow at this math stuff, even though we can get the right answer eventually.

But now, New Zealand primary school children are all taught this part/whole concept of math, which makes sense and is much easier than the longhand form.  They don’t get taught my outdated longhand until secondary school!

When the facilitator did a round of “Did you get what you needed out of this workshop?”  my answer was “I think I’ve just improved my math skills.”

My husband is very thankful, because I’m the one who pays the bills and does the budget. Ha.

(Originally posted here.)

Find me at Craving a little perspective, where I blog about learning, being a parent-as-first-teacher, and life.

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