r2 is a multiple of 24 and 10. What is the smallest value?Here, from a few weeks ago, is Stanislaus Dehaene on multiplication:
[O]ur intuition of quantity is of very little use when trying to learn multiplication. Approximate addition can implemented by juxtaposition of magnitudes on the internal number line, but no such algorithm seems to be readily available for multiplication. The organization of our mental number line may therefore make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to acquire a systematic intuition of quantities that enter in a multiplicative relation. (This hypothesis is supported by the fact that patients can have severe deficits of multiplication while leaving number sense relatively intact; in particular, patient NAU (Dehaene & Cohen, 1991), who could still understand approximate quantities despite aphasia and acalculia, was totally unable to approximate multiplication problems).This passage precisely captures my experience learning arithmetic.
Addition and subtraction make intuitive sense to me; multiplication and division do not. It's really that simple. For me, "math" - math as opposed to simple counting - begins with multiplication and division.
This observation brings me to a corollary: people always say kids fall off the math cliff when it's time to learn fractions, but I think the math cliff comes sooner. I think the math cliff is multiplication, only nobody knows it.
Nobody knows it because falling off a math cliff isn't like falling off a real cliff; with a math cliff, you can walk right over the edge and just hang there for awhile, suspended in mid air, like Wile E. Coyote.
The real drama comes after the fall, which is when kids finally get to fractions. Fractions aren't the cliff, and they aren't the fall. Fractions are the crash-landing at the bottom.
At least, that's my guess for the moment.
Setting metaphor aside, though, if it's true that we are not equipped with an intuitive understanding of multiplication and division, and I believe it is true, why don't more people know this?
Everyone knows fractions are hard; why doesn't everyone know multiplication and division are hard?
It's true most people perceive that certain aspects of multiplication and division are hard. Namely: memorizing the times tables is hard (for many children) and learning to do long division is hard (for many children). But I've never seen anyone take these facts to mean that there is something intrinsically challenging about multiplication and division in a way that is not the case with addition and subtraction.
I don't know, but I have some thoughts.
Which.... will have to wait. It's getting late, and I'm still trying to edit the body of this post into shape, so I'm going to set that aside and skip to the end, and just say that I think children should probably be taught to solve problems like the one above, which appeared on the October SAT. I'm pretty sure problems this can be used to find out whether students are suffering associative interference between addends and factors, which I bet an awful lot of students are no matter how quickly and accurately they can construct factor trees.
I'm also thinking more attention should be paid to teaching young children the terminology of arithmetic: addends, subtrahends, factors, and the like. I think -- I don't know -- that fluency with the terminology might help reduce associative interference. "All math looks alike": the 5 and the 2 in 5+2 look exactly like the 5 and the 2 in 5x2. But the words addend and factor have nothing in common whatsoever.