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Teaching Children Mathematics Feb 2003 Introducing percents in linear measurement to foster an understanding of rational-number operations Pages 335-339 Traditional instruction in rational numbers focuses on rules and memorization Teachers often give students instructions such as To add fractions first find a common denominator then add only the numerators or To add and subtract decimal numbers line up the decimals then do your calculations However Remembering and properly executing these relatively simple rules can be very difficult however when students do not have a good conceptual grounding in the rational numbers Personally when I was introduced to this new concept I was confused almost daily because my teacher expected me to just accept what she was saying and to memorize Interestingly this article presents computation abilities in rational numbers that were developed by fourth grade students who participated in a research project on the learning of rational numbers Moss and Case 1999 The goal of this ongoing research project is to foster a flexible interconnected understanding of the rational-number system Students begin their investigations of rational numbers by learning about percents in the context of linear measurement The learning of fractions and decimals comes later and is grounded in students learning of percents Although this approach alters the traditional teaching sequence for rational numbers it has many advantages for young students For example by beginning with percents rather than fractions educators postpone the problem of students having to compare or manipulate ratios with different denominators This allows children to concentrate on developing their own procedures for comparison and calculation instead of struggling to master a complex set of procedures that might seem foreign to them A second advantage of this instructional approach is that by beginning with percents we allow children to make their first conversions among the different representations of rational numbers in a direct and intuitive fashion and to develop a better general understanding of how the three systems are related At the
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