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  • Katrien Vance

    July 1, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    This is also about what gets taken for granted. Kids can’t “see” place value because this is the only number system they know. They don’t get that it is a man-made structure with rules, and that the rules could be different. When I was teaching 5th graders, I used a unit on Number Systems from Creative Publications’ “MathLand” curriculum. This is one of those units that could feel like a “waste of time” because you aren’t doing “real math.” But exploring the Babylonian, Roman, Mayan, binary, and other number systems helped ME and the students understand place value as a construct, rather than as a given, and it has always stuck with me as a crucial, even life-changing!, unit. Once you get that our system of place value is a created system–and that is easier to see when you can see that other systems have different rules–then place value makes a lot more sense. I can’t always convince teachers that this unit is so important–the time you take “playing” with the other number systems is time you don’t have to spend later thinking about place value.