Ten hardy teachers came from far and wide across the Nelson region last Wednesday to attend Charlotte WIlkinson's course, 'Numbers and The Number System: Place Value - the full story'.
Beginning with a quick overview on the history of numbers, explaining how Roman numerals soon became inefficient, the introduction of decimals by a European minister of finance (surprise, surprise), and how different countries incorporate place value into their language, it soon became apparent just how much we are expecting our students to understand at a young age, in contrast to how long it took for this knowledge to develop.
The importance of using correct language was made very clear when we thought about how numbers are spoken, especially in marketing. Take the example of two items advertised, one at $2.99, and one at $299. Both items in the same commercial will be referred to as 'two, nine, nine', leaving children thinking that a plastic toy costs the same as a digital device. And then there are the cars advertised as 'twenty nine, nine, ninety!'
Charlotte took us all back in time to when we were seven years old, possibly learning place value for the first time, with a clever simulation activity. It highlighted just how confusing place value concepts can be for young learners, and was a powerful activity to show just how uncomfortable learners can feel when they don't understand a concept.
The importance of our students having a solid foundation in place value was reinforced throughout the session in order for them to understand decimals, fractions and exponentials further on down the track.
With a vast knowledge base, a passion for mathematics, and an approachable manner Charlotte left us all with much to reflect on, and I have no doubt that each and every teacher attending has made positive change to their teaching of place value already.
A big thanks goes out to John Armstrong and Amy Chippendale of Henley School for the use of Room 1 for the course; many comments were about what a wonderful classroom it is!
If you would like to see Charlotte back in 2016 then please email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your expression of interest.