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Old Math Algorithms vs. New Math Methods: Double Digit Multiplication & Long Division

January 17, 2010

Here is a great informative video a meteorologist has done explaining the differences in math education for 4th & 5th grade multiplication and division.  She has the actual books and teacher’s manuals and shows you step by step how they expect a child to learn these topics.  In the manuals, she’ll show you paragraphs how they don’t expect mastery, you shouldn’t waste precious class time on it, and for difficult problems a calculator can be used.  I have first hand seen the worksheets and methods she is showing in these books in some public schools in North Texas. Students have been bringing me these the last few years, and they are just as she says.

The reason she got involved was after taking a calculus course in college recently and noticed how the young students’ algebra skills were severely lacking, many weren’t comfortable working alone, and most had a complete dependence on a calculator.  Then she saw her elementary school children’s curriculum. I also retook calculus at the University of Texas at Dallas last year to freshen up my skills for private tutoring and found the same problems with students 10 years younger than me.  The teacher’s assistant would have to go over and over problems as American students would get lost on basic algebra skills.  I didn’t notice the foreign students having the same issues.  This school is a heavy science and math college, and this was a normal calculus course with trigonometry aspects.  If the students are getting lost in the algebra, I wasn’t sure how they could pass the calculus.

Parents may think it’s not necessary for ALL majors/jobs to be proficient in calculus or even simply non-dependent on a calculator.  They are right.  Many jobs do not require this, calculators are everywhere, but why limit their child?  Maybe when he or she grows up, the desire to do a job with these skills may emerge.  Wouldn’t it be terrible if they went to take this calculus course and couldn’t follow the algebra steps?  If they can arm their children with all the skills now, then the students will have the whole world available to them.

Interesting side note: The speaker also endorses Singapore Math which has heavily influenced the Gideon Math curriculum. We bought a complete set and look to their example on how to teach many of the skills.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathi permalink
    March 6, 2012 6:40 pm

    We see the results of this kind of teaching on an hourly basis every day. Students have no idea how to multiply anything with more than 1 digit and long division is a pipe dream!

  2. Johnathan Monroe permalink
    May 26, 2012 8:26 pm

    My 4th grade math teacher taught me a method back in school when I was struggling with the traditional method taught by teachers and infact I was able to do the equations in my head easily and suprised him by throwing the answers at him just seconds after he wrote an equation on the board. He referred to it as ‘Building Egypt’ told me to think of the problem using ‘place’ example if I seen 112 i would break it down into 3 parts 100, 10, 2 then from there you multiply the parts then add them all together at the end.


    42×32=1344 you would break down into

    then the answer is the sum of these (I obviously am not as good at explaining it as he was) but it works is always 100% right and I am able to do it quickly in my head. It does get harder with more digits cause there is more parts to remember 😛 but for double digit equations you can’t go wrong with this.

  3. Katie permalink
    August 2, 2012 11:13 pm

    This was very helpful! I am in the midst of choosing a math curriculum for my daughters and am shocked at the numer of schools using Everyday Math…so disappointing! My kids have been using A Beka math curriculum at their school which is very strong on learning your math facts to expedite solving the problems. It works! Thank you for the summary; it was just what I needed!!!!!

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