Monday, May 26, 2014

Weekly 3: Nature of Mathematics

The Role of our Number Education

Ever since the beginning of our time, numbers have been another lesson that is taught to us during our developing years.  Numbers are included in early development as a milestone of understanding.  First, we learn to verbalize numbers while slowly developing the meaning.  This order relates to how our brain develops.  The ability to speak will come before the ability to understand.  Where did this understanding come from?  There has to be teachers before there are learners. Where did this system originate and why has it become a norm for education?  This is the topic I want to explore.  I want to discover the purpose of the number system in education.  From a future teacher perspective, I learned the role of our number system through other teachers who insisted its importance.  What benefits does knowing the number system give to students?  Finally, what is important for me as a teacher to educate myself with?

The 'Number System' can included many different aspects.  In the most broad sense possible, it can be summed up in the ways that all people reason about numbers.  For each person, the definition will be different.  Not only does each person have a different definition, but regionally, culturally and historically, the definitions have changed.  Here in the United States, we commonly see numbers in our speech and learning as one, two, three....(1, 2, 3.....).  We have both a numerical representation as well as a visual representation.  So, in teaching, the introductory grades are just learning to incorporate this language into their vocabulary.  As their fine motor skills develop, they begin to write their visual representation.  Then, as students grow and develop, meaning starts to develop.  Students begin to incorporate numbers with meaning.  This knowledge is brought into everyday life.  The connection between learning and using in crucial.  Students must be able to make the connection between what they are learning and what type of benefit it provides them.  In education, is important for learning to be purposeful.  If your students cannot connect with the material presented, then it will not become an integrative part of their everyday life.  As a teacher, this learning needs to be meaningful and easily applicable.  So, making that connection for students is absolutely crucial.

However, our number system did not just appear.  It took many centuries from its development to become what it is today.  So, the historical aspect is not to be neglected.  Students need to understand the different steps it went through.  Knowing this aspect makes the content seem more deeply rooted.  Rich history can amplify a lesson for students.  We know that counting in its simplest form can start with tallying.  Students can think like the earliest counters by using this method.  Then from there, we can dig into how other cultures used their earliest counting methods.  This learning can create links to history and/or geography.  There are so many ways to integrate the learning of the number system into education.  The importance must be emphasized over and over so that students can deepen their comfort with these topics.  After all, counting, reasoning, and numbers are everywhere.  There is not an aspect of life that does not utilize our number system.  As teachers, we must educate our newest learners into number system geniuses.

All in all, teachers have already been educated about the importance of the number system.  We see its importance and the role it plays in society so we teach it to our students.  Then, students just see numbers.  I think that if we introduce the role of numbers in their most historical form we would see a deeper appreciation.  It should not take a college degree for us to see where numbers came from.  If we educate students in the proper order we might see a stronger response to the number system.  I understand that students cannot be so overwhelmed with the history of every aspect of math, but we can prioritize.  The number system is going to be a part of their lives forever.  Lets teach them right.

Weibull, Nikolai. "A Historical Survey of Number Systems." Math Chalmers. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2014. <>. 

1 comment:

  1. Good resource, and you write well, here. I guess I'm just not sure of what your overall point is (coherence) - that idea of including history of number in our math lessons? I approve (of course). Maybe an example would crystallize your theme.
    4.5/5 C's