Wednesday 21 September 2016

Life without a Number System

Today we began our enquiring into place value / number systems with this lead in provocation:

Using the think-pair-share routine, students first had time to make a list of their ideas. They then shared in small groups and then we discussed as a whole class.

Here were some of the ideas we generated and discussed:

Loads of interesting theories, wonderings and debates took place. As we explored the ideas being shared, some of us debated and others added on ideas tomato them perhaps more correct. 

For example, it was shared that we wouldn't have houses. We wondered about that and then came to the conclusion that we wouldn't have modern houses since we wouldn't have formal measurements. But we could still have simpler houses.

Another in depth discussion we had was from the idea that there wouldn't be rich or poor people since there would be no money. We wondered about that idea. Some challenged our thinking by suggesting someone could still own more land to grow food than someone else. Would that make that owner richer?

After our discussion, I asked: What did this provocation make us think?

Here were some of our reflections:

° Our lives would be extremely different.

° Numbers ave helped people to progress over time. Without a number system we would still be living very simple lives.

° We can take having a number system for granted when actually so much depends upon it.

° It makes us appreciate how and why we have a number system.

Rich, philosophical discussions like this enrich student engagement in mathematical thinking. Thinking about a provocation like this helps us deepen our understanding and perceive maths in a different way we might not have before. It also provokes lots of interesting wonderings we want to explore in our unit:

° Who invented our number system?

° Why was it invented that way?

° What did people do before numbers were used?

° Could we survive today if suddenly everyone forgot our number system?

° Were there other number systems in the past?

These are great wonderings which have helped formed our new maths enquiry unit.

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