Thursday, June 23, 2011

Numbers on My Stairs

When I returned from my recent trip to the UK I found that my daughter Marie and my wife Lucie had painted the back stairs with a mathematical theme. I can now learn to count in French and Maay Maay, the Somali Bantu language every time I climb the stairs. What's most impressive about this is that Marie remembered the "Triangle of Meaning" in math education she learned when she took my grad. ed. math course last year.

The Triangle of Meaning identifies three forms of number; 1) the cardinal idea of a number such as three fingers or three houses, or three dots on a domino 2) the numeral we use to show that number such as 3 or III, and 3) the spoken word we use to say that number such as "three", "trois" , "drei" or "seddih". For young children to have a good grasp of counting they need to be able to move easily and meaningfully from one to the other.

One of the really interesting things we do in my undergraduate math class, ED325 Teaching Elementary School Math and Science is to explore in depth things that on the surface appear to be very simple. The whole idea of counting and numeracy is extremely complex and worthy of deep exploration so that we fully understand how it all works. The more we understand about these complex and intriguing issues the better teachers we become. There are few more rewarding things in life than to see a kindergartner count with real meaning rather than just number naming.

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