## Wednesday, October 23, 2013

### Elementary Math

I don't know if you guys have had a run in with "subitizing" yet, but it's this new math they're teaching third graders in my little sisters' school system. It's basically a form of mental math that suppose to help the kids understand the numbers and math properties more qualitatively rather than learning the algorithms we older mathematicians have come to know and love. Instead of stacking the numbers and carrying (addition) or borrowing (subtraction), they are making number sentences (horizontal line) and adding this, subtracting that, adding, subtracting, ect. until they reach the desired number. They will know it is the desired number if they keep up with the adding and subtracting they did in the process. I can hardly keep up with it, and I have a degree in math! How can I expect my 8 year old sister, with ADD, to keep up?

Anyway, two years later, what do you know? They are stacking the numbers! Of course, she's showing me how her teacher told her to do it, and she's doing it all wrong! They have to do these math problems online where the computer checks the answer automatically and brings her score up/down when she answers correctly/incorrectly. One minute, she has a score of 65, 75 the next, then back down to 65. It's driving both of us crazy! She seems to be making careless mistakes because she hasn't had practice stacking smaller numbers, and she's trying to work with millions, thousands, and hundreds. (Now I'm just speculating why she's doing poorly...)

Overall, I don't believe in the methods they are teaching the children currently, but I am interested to see how it effects their math skills in the future. Depending on the child and how well they grasped the concepts of numbers using subitizing, I think it could go either way. I also think my sister would be an adding/subtracting expert in fifth grade if she had been stacking the numbers since third grade. Although I have my doubts, I hope subitizing helps her in the future and doesn't put her and her classmates behind.

I had spoken to a woman who taught sixth grade math in the area. She mentioned that her students were doing poorly because they lacked the basic math skills. She had to teach her sixth graders to add and subtract by stacking numbers before they could move on to the appropriate level. Hopefully this wont happen with my sister and her classmates since they are working with number stacking in fifth grade, but it does make me question the reasoning behind teaching subitizing at such a young age. Once we all learn the algorithms for the basic functions, it would definitely be an advantage to learn subitizing. It is a more efficient and intimate way to play with numbers.