Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Maths - A Call for Order: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Maths - A Call for Order: Resources

Article excerpt

Setting sums in sequence can make all the difference.

Some fundamental ideas sit happily at the bottom of most of the maths we do but most of the time they are ignored. My mission - and you're welcome to adopt it - is to mention them a bit more often. The first idea I think my pupils need to practise is commutivity - or, when does order matter?

If I ask my class to line up - if we're doing a fire drill, for example - then I need them in register order. If they're waiting to come into my classroom, then it usually doesn't matter. But what about simple arithmetic? Does it matter whether I work out 5+3 or 3+5?

This is a great opportunity to investigate. We need to be able to generate two numbers and an "operation" (+, -, [s5] or x). At my school we have some "operation" dice but these can be made with the help of some stickers, or get your pupils to make their own.

Let's use the dice to generate a sum: three dice showing 4, [s5] and 8 would give us two options (4[s5]8 and 8[s5]4) and we can work these out. We might use a calculator, or not. I'm not solely interested in the numeracy skills here and a calculator might help us to make that point more easily.

We can write down lots of sums and hopefully discover for ourselves that + and x yield the same result regardless of the order, whereas - and [s5] don't. …

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