Some of the things that have been long accepted in the mathematics classroom, need to GO! They do nothing to help a student understand mathematics from a conceptual viewpoint. In this series, I will be talking about some of my pet peeves and things I would have outlawed if I was the “Queen of the Elementary/Middle School Math Universe”. (This is an imaginary title. Only a twisted math teacher would come up with or desire said title!)
In my opinion, the word “times” should no longer be used when teaching multiplication. It is eloquent when used in this opening sentence, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”. It works well as the title for one of the world’s largest daily publications, “The New York Times”. It even has a place in the math classroom when we are teaching about its passage or how to read a clock. However, the word, “times” when it relates to multiplication, does not reflect any specific action and needs to be replaced with the phrase “groups of“. Students, especially those in the primary grades, are perfectly capable of multiplying, but are usually direct modelers. It helps them learn if they have an action to model. If we tell them they are putting candy into five groups of four, they can tell you that there would be 20 pieces of candy. If we tell them to take five times four, they have no idea what we are asking them to do.
The same can be said for division. If we ask students to take the 20 pieces of candy and break them into groups of four to share with their friends and we want to know how many children will receive candy, young children can model that action. However, if we merely ask them to do the problem 20 divided by four, we may or may not get the correct result.
Just “Sum”thing to think about!