One of my favorite activities these days is teaching math. Shocking, but true. Last summer, I spent the equivalent of an African Safari on a “value pass” to the Making Math Real Institute, and soaked up about 70 hours of professional development on the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) alone.
I love the division the most: you go from concrete to semi-concrete to semi-abstract to abstract, introducing the concept of division as a question of a number of “kids” who encounter a box (the division sign) full of “loot”.
I stole little people game pieces from my last school when it closed, so I’m well situated, now, to teach division even to my third grade student with autism who is working far below his grade level. I grab a handful of place value cubes (we refer to them as “game cubes”, like one gets for an X box, I guess) and a few little guys, and Alfredo goes to town.
Lately, in Alfredo’s general education class, they’ve been studying African American history. Alfredo enjoys the idea of “the story of division”, and insists upon narrating it, every time.
“One bright, sunny day, there were ____ children walking down the street: Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and…” At this point, if there are any people left after the black, pink, and brown statues have been touched and labeled, Alfredo runs out of historical figures and names everyone else either “Martin Luther King Jr’s friend” or “Jr.”. “And these children were surprised to see…THE DIVISION HOUSE! Martin Luther King Jr. carefully opened the door, and discovered…game cubes! Now the children need to divide the game cubes, equally. First, we give game cubes to Martin Luther King…”