kitchen table math, the sequel: fractions in a 1940 arithmetic text

## Sunday, October 16, 2011

### fractions in a 1940 arithmetic text

Terrific new article by Barry G: The Myth About Traditional Math Education.
The equal division of three cupcakes among four people, or the equal division of a 3 inch line into four parts, is an extension of the idea of division of a whole number by a lesser whole number, which students have already mastered. Students already know that if 12 cupcakes are equally divided among four people, then each person gets 12/4 cupcakes. This idea is extended by starting with the problem of 3 divided by 4, and expressing 3 as 12 fourths. The problem is now stated as 12 fourths divided among 3 people, so that each person receives 3 fourths. This idea is then applied to a line three inches long, so that fractions are ultimately related to a number line, and the final point made that fractions are a representation of division. This is a key concept and ultimately underscores an idea of representing a fractional part as a unit unto itself. That is, 3/4 of an inch can be thought of as a unit (i.e., there are four such units in a three inch line) which is a cornerstone idea when fractional division is studied later.
And here's Barry's chart showing the rise and fall in test scores: