New Math

I wish that I was one of those people who look at math problems and get the right answer in nanoseconds, but I’m not. I am a right-brained guy. That makes me highly creative, but I sometimes struggle with the logic of math (like a lot of people).

Yesterday I walked in to one of the classes that I help out and asked the teacher what we were working on. She handed me the worksheet that dealt with fractions and whole numbers. She said, “I showed them the Butterfly Method.” I know I must have looked at her like a cow at an open gate, but I nodded and took the paper. There was no time for me to research what the Butterfly Method was. It was show time.

I sat down at my work table with four kids who were struggling with math. I quickly looked over each of their papers and discovered something interesting. They all had errors using the Butterfly Method. Good thing I did not know what it was (yet).

One of the problems they were struggling with was 4/4 = ?/3. All of them had the wrong answer. I pulled out a white board and marker and told them: “Any number over itself = 1. What does 100/100 = ?” A couple of them said 100!  I reinforced, “No…any number over itself = 1. So 4/4 = 1. Right? If 4/4 = 1 and 4/4 = ?/3, what is the number that HAS to go over the 3?” One kid said, “3?” I smiled and have him a high 5. He got it, but I did not stop there.

“If any number over itself equals 1, what is 10/10? 1! What is 50/50? 1! What is 1000/1000? 1! With each response they got more excited. They almost simultaneously went, “Ahhhhhhh. I get it!” I love those light bulb moments in teaching. I gave each of them a high 5 and said, “You guys ROCK! Y’all are the smartest kids… my table.” LOL. They looked at each other then broke out laughing. They got the joke.

If you want to have some fun with a group of kids, try this: Tell them the rule we just talked about. Any number over itself = 1, then give them some examples 4/4 =1, 10/10 = 1, etc. The very last one you give them is 0/0 = ? They WILL say 1, which is wrong. LOL. That is the exception.

For those of you that want to argue that 0 is not a number, that is not the point. The thing I want kids to do is not just jump to conclusions. Too many of them do that because they want to be first to finish. Multiple part math problems trip up a lot of kids. This little exercise helps them understand that they need to slow down before they answer. They need to question their assumptions. Come to think of it, we all do, right?

P.S. I did research the Butterfly Method. It is pretty cool and I get it, but obviously, not everybody gets that method either. It all depends on your learning style and which side of your brain is dominant. Note to self: Always have a plan B to explain problems from a different point of view. It is not how you teach it that is so important as how they receive it. That is what matters.


Dan Skognes

2 Responses to “New Math”

  1. Mary McGregor says:

    Hi Daniel! This butterfly method of math reminds me of a mathematical technique called cross multiplying numbers, particularly fractions, to check for equivalency or not.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: