Monday, December 10, 2012

"Why aren't there 'oneths' in decimals?"

As we near our winter break from school, I am going to try my best to squeeze in one more of our new math units--this one on basic decimal concepts.  I knew the students had been introduced to decimals last year, but I was certain that it wasn't going to do us any harm by going back to the beginning.  Way back.  Like..."What IS a decimal?" back.  Just a note--good call on my part.  ;)

What I discovered was that the students really had no clue about what decimals are...why they are they are written--or anything mathematically important at all.  "Fine," I think.  "Let's start at the very beginning..." and off we went.

As we started talking about counting, and "wholes" and "parts" and other number concepts, we gradually moved ourselves into a discussion about how to write "parts" of numbers.  We talked fractions.  We talked pictures.  And...finally...we talked decimals.

As things picked up, I started working in some of those more critical things--reviewing the names of the different places (ones, tens, hundreds, tenTHS, hundredTHS, and so on) when the question of all questions came up.

"Why aren't there any 'oneths' in decimals, Mrs. A?"

Other voices chimed in with "Yeah!  How come?" and other generally annoyed comments.  In other words--for the last 3 months I have been working to convince my people that math makes sense--and here they found their proof that math does not, indeed, make sense.

So...why the blog post?  What is my food for thought today?  As I try to do (still working at being consistent with this!) when my students produce brilliant questions, I took a moment to think.  How am I going to handle THIS one?  And, as usual, I am glad I did.  Taking that moment to pause kept me from explaining the "Truth" and gave me the wisdom to say instead, "That's your job to figure out today..."

...and 90 minutes later, they did.

Have a great day everyone--take a moment to pause...let them make their own sense out of the world.  They can do it.

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