Units are the Game Changers in Maths!

Let us take a look at a grade 3 problem:

Find the perimeter of a rectangle whose length is 2 m and breadth is 10 cm.

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Most of the children are unaware of the significance of units, hence, they might simply ignore the units and attempt it this way :

2 + 10 + 2 + 10

I want them to understand the difference between

2 + 10 + 2 + 10     &     2 m + 10 cm + 2 cm + 10 cm

If I say,  you need to have the same units for addition/subtraction, children might simply follow because ‘teacher is saying so’. Conversion of units and its importance is quite an abstract concept for 8 – 9 year old children. They need a concrete example to understand and visualise this concept of same vs. different units.

 

Digits have no definite value without units. Units are the game changers in Maths.

Consider these digit-unit pairs :

10 Km, 10 gm, 10 Secs, 10 litres

All of them have the digit 10 but are they all the same ? Units are making them all different. Do you agree ?

I want children to ‘see’ this concept that it is the “unit” that decides the exact value of a digit.

Let me share the approach that I use in my classroom to explain this abstract concept :

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Me: If I give you $100 & Rs. 100, how much money would you have in total ? ( Rs is Indian currency )

Student : (Thinking … ) $100 & Rs. 100

Me : Very smart answer 🙂 What’s the total amount ?

Student : (Screaming silence)

Me : Can you say that you have $ 200 in total ?

Student : No.

Me : Can you say that you have Rs. 200 in total ?

Student : No.

Me : What do you understand from this example ?

Student : Hmm…., I cannot add $100 & Rs. 100. ( This is the Aha… moment for any student who is struggling with units)

Me: Right. What do you need to do so that you can add them ?

Student : I need to convert Rs. 100 to dollars.  ( Rs. 100 = $2 assuming 1 Dollar = 50 Rs. )

Me : Can we do it the other way also ? Can we convert $100 to Rs. ?

Student : Yes, that’s also possible. $100 = 50 X100 = Rs. 5000. So, total amount is Rs.5100 .

I have tried this method with multiple students and after this conversation, all of them have got a crystal clear understanding about the significance of units. Now, they don’t just mechanically convert units to make them same. Rather, they understand the reasoning behind it.

I would encourage you to discuss this with your children/ students and let me know if it gives them a clearer perspective of units. Your feedback would surely help me in this journey of Making Maths Simple & Visual.

7 thoughts on “Units are the Game Changers in Maths!

Add yours

  1. this is such a good idea! I have tried explaining this in terms of different denominations in the same currency, but they pretty much know how to get to the answer. I’m going to try this…

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    1. Glad to know that you found it useful for your students. Please, do share your experience. It might help me in making Maths Simple & Visual. Happy teaching.

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  2. You actually make it appear really easy with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually one thing that I believe I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I am having a look forward for your subsequent publish, I will attempt to get the hold of it!

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