Newer Math: Limerick Addition

Word Ways, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Newer Math: Limerick Addition


Beginning in the early 1960s, New Math was introduced in grade schools. It emphasized mathematical structure through set theory and number bases other than 10. The principle idea was: If kids learned the axiomatic foundations of math, they could easily deal with math theorems later. Parents and teachers opposed it in America. They considered it to be too far outside the students' normal experience, and they thought it took time away from traditional math topics, like arithmetic. By the end of the decade, it was given an F for failed experiment.

Of course it failed! It didn't take an approach that kids would enjoy. It ignored the fact kids liked to play baseball, go swimming, tell dirty jokes, and do other things. The New Math was a complex exercise in boredom. In order to provide an alternative educational instruments, I've developed Newer Math, which is based on two principles: (1) Repetition is the mother of retention, and (2) limericks are hilarious math vehicles. The first unit in Newer Math is called Limerick Addition. The students learn math- based limericks by repeating them until they've learned them by heart. Here is how Unit 1 begins:

 A one and a one and a one And a one and a one and a one And a
one and a one And a one and a one Equal ten. That's how adding is
done.
 A two and a two and a two And a two and a two and a two And a two and a
two And a two and a two Equal twenty. It's easy to do.
A three and a three and a three And a three and a three and a three And
a three and a three And a three and a three Equal thirty. Just try it.
You'll see.
A four and a four and a four And a four and a four and a four And a four
and a four And a four and a four Equal forty. Now look at your score.
A five and a five and a five And a five and a five and a five And a five
and a five And a five and a five Equal fifty. … 

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