Balancing Squares and Cubes

Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia), August 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Balancing Squares and Cubes


Byline: MIXEDNUMBERS sections@dailyexaminer.com.au

JOHN ruptured the silence as he leapt to his feet, and heaved the chair towards the corner of the room.

Year 7 was busy; each student relished the opportunity to squiggle ancient Egyptian numerals. Ten minutes into the lesson, a sharp knock sounded at the door. An enthusiastic youngster, with a voice reminiscent of a boat horn, stuck her head into the classroom.

C[pounds sterling]Sir, John has to go to reading group.C[yen] Like a shaken bottle of lemonade, John exploded. He resented the chance to improve his language know-how.

Without the skill of interpreting text, however, much of the other lesson content becomes formidable. Mathematics is no exception. A problem couched in words often belies the simplicity of the sums involved.

I did teach kids with reading difficulties who learnt to decipher the required sum from the presentation of the digits. For example, a question containing a string of quantities might suggest an addition is needed. Alternatively, two numbers, one large and one small, could be a division; but you don't travel far with these techniques. …

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