Have you ever looked at your child’s math homework and wondered why it looks so different than what you learned in school? Have you wondered what this “new math” is all about?
There is No New Math
Well, the truth is there is no new math. We still teach many of the things that you and I learned, however, in the years since we graduated from elementary school we have learned a lot about the way students learn.
What About Multiplication
Take multiplication for instance, many of us were taught to multiply, carry, regroup, place a zero to hold our space, and so on. This method worked for some, but didn’t make sense to most. Math educators and researchers have studied these methods and the way students learn to find additional ways to help students. What we have learned is that multiple representations and multiple approaches create a deep conceptual understanding that will help students be more successful in elementary school math and beyond.
How We Look at Multiplication in the Classroom
Let’s look at an example of multiplication. Below you will see several different examples of multiplying using the “Partial Products” strategy. Partial Products is a strategy that involves multiplying by breaking down the numbers into either place value or manageable chunks. The first two examples show multiplying by place value recorded slightly differently. The third example shows breaking the number into friendly or manageable chunks.
By thinking of multiplication this way, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of multiplication. They focus on the properties of multiplication that were often not taught until middle school.
Understanding Math Rather than Just Doing Math
Once students have an understanding of multiplication and are fluent with the properties of multiplication, they are then introduced to the US Standard Algorithm of Multiplication. This allows students to have a conceptual understanding of multiplication and make sense of the short cut notation used in the US Standard Algorithm.
Let’s compare one of the examples of Partial Products and the US Standard Algorithm.
Where is the 175 from the US Standard Algorithm in the Partial Products model? Where is the 250 from the US Standard Algorithm in the Partial Products model?
Creating a Deeper Understanding of Math
Our hope is that with this approach students have a deeper understanding of multiplication and have a better understanding of the US Standard Algorithm. This strong foundation of math understanding will support student’s future work in higher level math throughout middle school and high school.