New math perplexes Minnesota parents

6:39 AM, Sep 10, 2012   |    comments
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MINNETONKA, Minn. - In the new millennium, math homework has become the bane of parents from coast to coast. Minnesota parents are no exception.

"One thing I would love for our parents to react," said Sandy Katkov, veteran Minnetonka School District math instructor, "when their child comes home and says 'Mama, I just learned this great strategy! Let me show you how to do it!' Parent, please do not say 'I am terrible at math!' How about 'Oh, show me! Let me see what you learned'." 

Parents (and grandparents) who learned the basic addition and multiplication tables by rote memorization are often puzzled by newer notions like lattice multiplication. Katkov and fellow Minnetonka elementary math teacher Anelise Rossing teach a number of "strategies" to their students depending on which method works better for each student.

Shown a basic multiplication of 325 X 5 = 1625, Rossing suggested, "this is a strategy that works for a lot of students. However, we are trying to build a stronger number sense. One strategy is called 'partial products."

Rossing used the same problem, but multiplied from the other side of 325 number, beginning with the hundreds number of 3. She also used lattice math to create a box or grid, putting 325 at the top of the box and 5 on the side. Then dividing the box into diagonal sections, she used basic multiplication to fill in the diagonal spaces, finally adding down the diagonals to come to the same 1625 result.

"How do we get to the answer?" noted Rossing, "really creating students who can think critically about math and be creative in how they are coming up with answers to their problems."

"One of the expectations that the State of Minnesota has is that when you graduate from high school, you have a higher level of math understanding," said Katkov. "It is just what the society expects. It is what, globally, we are in competition with and so, to make sure that all kids have that, can go from the 'concrete' to 'picture' to 'abstract' at an early age and be confident in that abstract at an early age, will help them reach that higher level of mathematics."

Katkov and Rossing pointed out that there are games that students can play at home with their parents including several apps on iPads.

Some are: Tric-Trac, Math Baseball, Divisibility, Math BallRocket Math and Marble Math.

For those who do not have access to iPads, there are games using a simple deck of cards that can challenge students ability to solve mathematical problems using number and face cards.

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