Fractions as parts of a whole, again !

This was found on “talking math with your kids” as an example of the “strange” stuff that kids bring home and cause mystification in their parents.

“The whole is 8. One part is 8. What is the other part ?”.

Just what exactly is this supposed to mean?
That the whole always consists of two parts?
Since when did numbers have parts?
What is the definition of “part”?
Even if we are talking about 8 things, then the natural AND logical answer is “There isn’t another part”.
If I want to see ways of creating 8, using adding, then what is wrong with
8=1+7 8=2+6 8=3+5 … 8=7+1 and 8=8+0 for completeness’ sake.

To call zero a part of 8 is going to lay the groundwork for a feeling that math hasn’t got a lot to do with real life, which is a crying shame. This feeling can arise at any stage, we should give reality a chance at this level. To conclude “What a stupid question!”.



Filed under abstract, arithmetic, education, fractions, language in math, teaching

2 responses to “Fractions as parts of a whole, again !

  1. It is very frustrating to see some of the things that my son brings home as homework. I don’t mind the new ways they teach the same old problems, but I do sometimes have the same feeling expressed here, i.e. the meaning sometimes gets lost. My son hates to do problems that he feels he already understands and he will absolutely refuse to work on something that just doesn’t make sense to him – or on something that he can’t see the utility.
    I don’t blame him (even though it frustrates me). I do wish his work (esp. math) was presented in more application-driven terms.

    When he was learning fractions, I made this ( or him just to have some sense for a use outside of the classroom (be it an absurd one).

  2. I agree that the question was stupid! Perhaps it was taken out of context when the instructions were that they were to break a number into two parts.

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