## Friday, February 19, 2010

### Why elementary math?

I work for Excel Math. We create math curriculum. Writing this blog is part of my job. In it we explore how people (grown-ups or youths) can use math they learned in elementary school

Wikipedia states: Mathematics is the study of quantity, structure, space, and change.

A Maths Dictionary for Kids says: Mathematics is the study of numbers, quantities, shapes and space, using mathematical processes, rules and symbols.

I guess I put it a bit differently.

Excel Math Blog #2 said, Math is a language of counting, measurement, shapes and calculation. A language with precise definitions and specialized terms.

I think Math involves first learning, then using a variety of skills and procedures for thinking about and manipulating numbers and shapes.

Math is composed of a wide range of things that are lumped together in school for convenience (or because Reading, History or PE teachers won't teach them)!

In Excel Math these math areas include (arranged roughly in order from first-taught to last-taught):
1. Place Value and Counting
• Number sequences, missing numbers and ordering numbers
• Number lines
• Mathematical symbols
• Number patterns
3. Subtraction of Whole Numbers
4. Multiplication of Whole Numbers
5. Division of Whole Numbers
6. Fractions
• Fractional parts of a set
• Converting and simplifying
7. Money
• Units of currency
• Prices and unit pricing
• Making change
8. Time
• Clock
• Calendar
9. Odd and Even Numbers
10. Geometry
• Two-dimensional space and geometric figures
• Three-dimensional space and figures
• Flips, Slides, Turns, Scaling
• Area, volume, perimeter, surface area
• Angles and degrees
• Calculating pi
11. Problem Solving
• Word problems
• Reasoning
• Giving directions
12. Measurements
• Units and tools of measure
• Conversions and equivalents
• Comparisons
• Abbreviations
13. Estimating
14. Probability
15. Graphing, Plotting and Charting
16. Pre-Algebra
• positive and negative numbers
• exponents
• square roots
• factors and permutations
• Venn diagrams
17. Decimal Numbers
18. Percents
19. Statistics
Sheesh! That's a long list. We have a huge spreadsheet (prints 4 feet by 12 feet) to track what's taught when and where.

That's what kids are doing throughout grades K-6, BEFORE they get Algebra, Trigonometry, etc.- learning CONCEPTS, TECHNIQUES, WAYS of THINKING, ACTIVITIES.

For most of us, math is not a life-long process of "proofs" about conceptual possibilities that might be true or false.

Instead, MATH is skills we use every day. Most do not involve intensive calculation, so fingers, calculators and spreadsheets are useful at times but insignificant in the larger picture.

Math requires precise thinking and a healthy skepticism about the numbers thrown at us by advertisers, government, bankers and friends. It's the ability to find our own answers to questions. Like,

Why is my budget off? Is is the numbers, is it the spreadsheet, or is my analysis faulty?

Excel Math assumes that people will need to learn to think mathematically, perform calculations (using any tools at hand) and trust their own judgement. These skills are a necessary math foundation for any self-confident citizen.

I search for interesting topics and do math on them in this blog - to entertain myself as well as do useful things like figure out a utility bill, calculate fuel economy, etc.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.