11 September 2010

Lengthy division

Were you aware that kids stopped learning long division and multiplication a decade ago?

Those lucky bastards, missing possibly the most pointless piece of 'traditional' education this side of French (see earlier post)

Now, at first glance, I was naturally sceptical, being good at maths and wary of terms like 'chunking' made me instantly think 'dumbing down'

Personally I don't think there's a substitute for times tables, and understanding the basics of number systems is key

But long division was always something that eluded me - and my disinterest in it always angered my teachers as I would inevitably get the answer by doing all sorts of unusual things in my head, turns out I was doing these new methods like 'gridding' all along, this is the way the brain breaks it down for you into chunks of manageable equations, far easier in your head than writing down columns with remainders (I always thought that was the single stupidest thing teachers made us do - carry the one? Why?? I can see where it bloody goes, I don't need to write it on the side and add it in later), and probably quicker

I never bothered with long division, once out of primary it was assumed you knew how to do it and I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, and use a 'real' pen!

I digress, some will no doubt mutter that education is falling apart, but I believe long division is outdated bilge anyway - let's face it, do you actually learn 'mathematics' through the use of systematic columns? Nope, you learn a system, you learn how to divide up longer numbers into smaller, manageable sums that you learn through times tables - basically you've only learnt up to 10x10 and then you start breaking down numbers into that - that's not learning, that's a rote system, which I remember thinking back then was a ridiculous way for adults to do numbers

I put this to the test, never bothering with it myself, I went to my parents, one of whom works with numbers, one of whom is rather worse, and asked them 372x612

The result: one took far too long after years of using Excel spreadsheets and calculators, the other just looked rather blankly at me and guessed - in essence the system was forgotten, because once you're out of school, if you aren't using the written column system regularly then you will forget it, therefore it's pointless to learn it

In short, once we got calculators, the Victorian system needed to go - so yay for modernism

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