Basic math in the classroom

Basic Math in the Classroom

You probably remember studying "arithmetic"- adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing when you were in elementary school. Now, children are starting right away to learn about the broad ideas associated with math, including problem solving, communicating mathematically, reasoning, and number sense. Listed below are a few of the key mathematical concepts that appear in elementary school math books and classroom instruction today.
  • Algebra: Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic in which letters of the alphabet represent numbers or a specified set of numbers, and are related by operations that hold for all numbers in the set. Children use algebra when they solve problems like 4+o = 7, with letters replacing the box as children get older.
  • Arithmetic: Arithmetic is the knowledge and the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers and fractions. For example: 5+1, 10-5, 6x2, 3÷12, and ¾ + ½.
  • Calculus: Calculus is about how quantities change. By understanding calculus, people can use math to make predictions about things that change over time.
  • Estimation: Estimation is the act of approximating or guessing the number value of something. We use estimation regularly to determine such things as how many, how heavy, and how full. Being a good estimator also helps children know if answers on calculators or other computer-generated data make sense.
  • Geometry and spatial sense: Geometry begins with children recognizing shapes by their characteristics and extends to their being able to use formulas and algebra to determine important details about each shape. For example, a= ½ (bxh) is the formula for determining the area of a triangle.
  • Measurement: Measurement is determining the lengths, areas, volume, time, and other quantities. Children need to know common units of measure such as inches or kilograms and how to use measurement tools.
  • Number sense: Number sense is understanding the relative sizes of numbers and how to use them, whether doing arithmetic, estimation, measurement, or classification.
  • Probability: Probability is determining the likelihood that something will happen, often expressed as a fraction or a ratio1 in 10, 1/10.
  • Statistics: Statistics is the collection and analysis of numerical data. Taking a census and counting people is a statistical activity.
As a result of the recent effort in mathematics teaching to include understanding in the teaching of math, from basic through advanced levels, the picture of your child's math class may, indeed, look different from what you remember when you were in school. For instance:
  • Children will be expected to know their math facts: Children will be learning their math facts with an understanding of how facts relate to each other.
  • Children will be doing more than arithmetic: Children will be seeing that math is much more than arithmetic (knowing the facts and number operations); it involves estimation, geometry, probability, statistics, and more.
  • Children will be striving to achieve high goals: Children will be achieving high standards of understanding, complexity, and accuracy set for them by their parents, teachers, schools, and states.
  • Children will be actively involved in the study of mathematics: Children will be doing tasks that involve investigations. They will be talking and writing explanations for their thinking.
  • Children will be working with one another: Children will be collaborating to make discoveries, draw conclusions, and discuss math.
  • Children will be evaluated in a variety of ways: Teachers will use many different ways to determine if children know and understand math concepts. Some of these will include writing samples, projects, or written tests. Not all evaluation will be the same for every classroom or every child.
  • Children will be using calculators to solve problems: They will be using calculators not as crutches but as tools to solve more complex problems with bigger numbers than they could do otherwise. Children with good knowledge of math facts, number sense, and reasoning about math will be able to use the calculator most effectively.
  • Children will be using computers: They will be developing databases, spreadsheets and computer graphics, while solving problems.

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