Skip to content


October 5, 2015

Leave it to my grade 3 class to ask questions to lead us into an inquiry.  They often do that. Kids do that.

Their inquiry was: ‘Why do we have so many different ways to get the same answer when doing multiplication’?

We’ve got lattice, partial products, box method…etc.. like too many right? It was a great inquiry.  I wondered the same thing myself. I mean I know ‘why’ but.. why??  When I grew up I remember one way to get the answer. Because the answer was important. Now its about process. I get that too. But still… why not 1 way?

So I posed this question one evening to my go to (my)  Maths Guru, Bruce Ferrington @BruceFerrington  in Canberra, Australia who has an awesome blog on math I might add. He was about to go on holidays so Im glad I pushed him right to the brink of his school days to answer my question. So me being the persistent pestering inquirer I fired off these tweets one evening trying to come to grips with an answer myself:

Why are there so many different math strategies that exist today that (didn’t)? exist when I grew up? 

And more importantly why do we need the different strategies – a Devil’s advocate question…sorry but I wonder why.

Sometimes we teach 5 different ways to get to the same answer (lattice, partial products etc..) Why? – again Devil’s advocate) But I am serious. Does having multiple ways of learning math confuse learners? Or open minds?

So what was very cool is that Bruce took the time to not only to answer our personal inquiry but to involve his own learners well. We got some great responses back and Bruce actually wrote a post here about this whole mini inquiry into my (our) initial question! I shared it with my kids and they were pretty stoked. Maybe not so much the ‘math answer’ but that someone on the globe actually cared enough to respond to our wondering. That was way cool and they kids have talked about it. I meant something to them. (I didn’t tell them, this was unplanned so it was a pleasant unexpected surprise).

Here is what Bruce’s Grade 2 kids thought:

Screenshot 2015-10-05 18.15.26

So now my new wondering (and Bruce I don’t expect a blogpost but Id love some guidance one day ) 😉 …Im helping my daughter in Grade 7. She has some tricky pre Algebra stuff. I was a consumer maths guy (in the old days that was the remedial class I guess). I did really well with real life maths stuff. It made sense. Im struggling to help my daughter with some seemingly very abstract math concept and trying even harder to connect these concepts to the real world.

Theres got to be a way I guess..otherwise why would they exist right? Im wondering how many middle school parents out there are a bit dumbfounded as to how to help their kids with homework.

(Homework being a totally separate blogpost all together).

One a side note- how cool is it to have the global connections to tap into when Im stumped, or my students are stumped or have an inquiry and to be able to click a few keys to get help. 

Thanks Bruce.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: