July 18, 2008

Bowling Math

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"Mom, I just can't do it," Trevor said with frustration, as he pushed his math worksheet across the table. "My answers are all wrong again."

Kindergarten math was a breeze for my son. But now that he was working with double-digit numbers in first grade, Trevor was finding it difficult to learn how to "regroup" when adding and subtracting numbers above 10.

Over and over, I had patiently explained how to "carry over" and "borrow" groups of ten when adding and subtracting larger numbers, but I was only adding to his confusion. Teachers nowadays don't use the terms when teaching the "new math" -- whatever that means. And the more aggravated Trevor got with me, the more he blocked what I was trying to explain.

"Let's find your old bowling game," I suggested, as I searched through his closet. I thought the plastic pins could be used to teach him how to work with double-digits better than the abstract lessons I was trying to teach on paper.

Doing the math after his first frame was easy, after Trevor knocked down six pins. He had no problem seeing how 10 minus six equals four because there were four pins left standing. And when he knocked down eight pins in the next frame, he easily added eight plus six to determine his score. And when I asked how many he had missed out of a possible perfect score of 20 (10 pins per frame), Trevor used the pins to count out the correct answer.

We continued playing ten frames as Trevor added and subtracted the growing numbers. His excitement grew as he finally started to understand regrouping by the fourth frame and was able to figure out the correct answers by the end of the game.

Who knew the "new math" could be so fun?

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