Encircling our perceptions

Posted: November 28, 2013 in The root of the matter


What does “number” mean?


1. Nominal use: what is your house number?

2. Ordinal use: Who/What comes first?

3. Cardinal use: How many?

4. Number as an adjective AND a verb: 10 ones

As teachers, we need to UNPACK these meanings for our students and teach this concept of numbers-we cannot assume this is innate knowledge! There needs to be more TRANSPARENCY in mathematics.

Furthermore, in order to help students grasp these number concepts, we need to create an interactive environment that focuses on visual and kinaesthetic aids. For example, to demonstrate the various ways 10 can be shown, try the following:

-have ten kids stand up at the front of the class

-have one child put up both hands

-sound a bell, chime, or other instrument ten times

-have students taste 10 pieces of cut up fruit

-line up ten apples

-show monetary forms of ten: ten pennies, one dime, 2 nickels.

-have two dice each showing 5.

Providing a variety of tangible, touchable objects will allow for students to be able to see what 10 looks like, feel what 10 is, hear 10, smell or even taste 10! This experience allows for a deeper understanding of mathematics: the student is now making personal connections to the number 10.

I think teaching the concept of numbers is a very challenging one. I know that I will need to remind myself to be patient while students are exploring and untangling this “number knot.” I find that we (myself included) tend to skim over concepts that we have a good understanding of, and this is a huge shortcoming; not only for our students, but for ourselves (we can always learn more in different ways). I know that if I put my time and energies into the basics, my students will be able to use those building blocks to create their own masterpieces.


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