One more thing that I learned at Crewton Ramone's House of Math
by Kirk's Tutoring
(Tucker, GA U.S.A.)
Learn Outside Whenever Possible
I tutor students with disabilities. Almost all of the students I have worked with in the last year (including my son) struggled with the concept of a negative numbers.
They had all been taught with number lines. Even though that didn't work for them, their teachers moved on because of curriculum maps, and testing, and 35 students in a classroom, and all the different reasons teachers don't have time to teach.
When I talk to them using the terms "have" and "owe," they all understand what I am talking about.
First I get them comfortable with making zero. "If I have $10 and owe you $10 (give them a $10 bill), how much money do I have now? I do at least three problems like that.
Then, move on to "If I owe you $20, but only have $10 to give you, how much do I still owe you after I give you all of my $10?" The students understand I still owe them $10. We do problems like this until they realize the answer represents negative $10.
A light bulb goes off inside their heads and you can see the moment of comprehension on their faces. A couple have laughed. Nearly all have asked, "Why didn't anyone explain it like that before?"
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