Creating number sense is something students definitely struggle with throughout their elementary school career – I know I definitely struggled with this as a child. Although many teachers mention that we operate on a base ten number system, we fail to develop the conceptual understanding behind what it really means to operate on a ‘base ten’ number system. I’ve seen many teachers say “just add a zero at the end of the number when you multiply by 10″ (I was taught this way when I was in school) . To a certain extent, this is true and this simple trick does make life easier when teaching, but this does a real disservice to our students. This leads students to develop a weak understanding of our number system and a poor foundation. Why do we “just add a zero” at the end of a number? Because we multiply by 10! It’s not a bad trick to teach our students to “add a zero” at the end of a number when multiplying by ten, but I make it a habit of telling my students we do it because we are multiplying by ten. Tricks and strategies are great (especially for those students who really don’t get it) but we need to remember to always try to explain the logic behind the tricks/strategies – it’s best to always try to explain why certain tricks and strategies work.
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