3.NBT 1: Place Value & Rounding In 3-D (#197)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 197

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”

And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times. Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. CCSS math standards are listed here in blue, followed by ambient math suggestions.

Number and Operations in Base Ten 3.NBT
Use place-value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.
1. Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.

Rounding is really a very simple concept, but it can be overly abstracted and thus made confusing at this age.  An online search for suggested activities to meet this Common Core standard turned up mostly (surprise!) worksheets!  Very repetitive and boring, drill and kill.  One suggested activity involved rounding on a number line.  Math By Hand teaches the number line in Grade 4, along with the concept of using the 4 processes with positive and negative numbers on it.  Very complex, too complex for Grade 3.

Place value is taught mid Grade 2, with beans and large, color-coded columns.  The first step is to correlate the beans with the values: 1’s are black beans, 10’s are kidney beans, and 100’s are lima beans.  This “bean bank” is used to illustrate how 10 ones are cashed in to make 10, and 10 tens are cashed in to make 100.

If this is learned pictorially and imaginatively once, that’s enough.  There’s no need to belabor the point with insisting on having all work shown with endless dots, bars, and squares.  Watch this youtube for a perfect example of this enforced, unnecessary busywork.

So.  The beans could be adapted to show rounding as well.  I found piles of worksheets with example after example of rounding.  Doesn’t this communicate a lack of trust by conveying the message, “You will have to do this over and over to prove to me that you understand it.”  Drill and kill.  Shouldn’t a gentle reminder when needed suffice?

Math By Hand brings long division and multiplication mid Grade 3, with the same large, color coded columns that were used to teach place value.  Remainders in long division are another opportunity to teach rounding.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for more Grade 3 math CCSS and their ambient counterparts.