Saturday, October 06, 2007

Adding certain numbers

While grading with Kene, I admitted that "adding 8 and 7 has always been really hard for me."

With a horrified look on his face, Kene proceeded to tutor me using sentences like "But 7 and 7 is 14, right??" and "So, what is 9 and 7 then?" and "I can't believe you." In the end, I was left with the impression that 8 and 7 is probably about 15.

The whole interaction ultimately made me want to die, but it also reminded me of how I've been unsure of numbers my entire life. As a child, I was constantly asking questions like "is 9 plus 8 seventeen?" and my mom would reply "every time." I hated that answer, and it never really assured me that the next time 9 and 8 were together, seventeen would be the result of their union.

Now that I'm older and even less confident about life and the world in which we live, I did what every quailing individual with an embarrassing problem does: I Googled "adding 8 and 7 difficult."

As expected, I didn't get a lot of valuable information. However I did find an article in the American Psychology Association's Monitor, where the following paragraph was highlighted:

Children in the United States eventually learn that the number system is base 10 and that teens are tens plus ones, but only the most mathematically adept children ever learn to add by adding up to 10 and then adding the remaining ones (as with adding 7+8 by breaking 7 into 5 and 2, adding 2 to 8 to get 10 and then adding 5 for 15), says Fuson.

I took two things away from this. First, in the miasmal and amorphous realm of single-digit addition, 7 and 8 must be the most challenging pair to really wrap your mind around. Even mathematically adept children must deconstruct the numbers for it to make any sense at all.

Second, I'm an idiot.


Mackenzie said...

lean, I have trouble with that one too but really subtraction has always been my achilles heel.

remember when you had to do dilutions at the CDC? that was rough.

jenovus said...

You are the opposite of a synaesthete—these numbers do not register to any of your senses. Also supporting my hypothesis: your clumsy use of "miasmal" and "amorphous," both adjectives of sensation.

I am antagonistic because I have to create a presentation, that I may deliver it tomorrow afternoon. Please do not think ill of me. Deliver us from evil; amen.

Lena Webb said...

I hope your slide transitions are clumsy. And accidentally peppered with entirely inappropriate sound effects.

jenovus said...

I used overhead transparencies. Every transition was clumsy, and accompanied by self-effacing mumbling.

You have a strange and terrible power, Lena Webb.

Lena Webb said...

Overhead transparencies?! Are you being educated in a barn? Is UW Madison just a big barn?

Dharia said...

it probably doesn't help, but i have always had problems with 7 and 8, particularly in multiplying.

perhaps this is why we work with CELLS and not equations like our colleagues?