Why do you teach? I remember when I first came into the profession it was because I enjoyed students and wanted to make a difference. I still love watching movies of teachers that have gone into challenging situations and inspired students to think differently. These teachers empowered the students to be all that they were created to be. Every teacher has stories of students, and today I want to share one that is close to my heart.
Eric was a student that struggled on many levels. Behavior was an issue. Homework was an issue. Reading was an issue. Math was an issue. Well I think you get the point. He drove me crazy on more days than I wanted to count. But he had this smile . . . Life wasn’t easy at home for Eric, which helped me persevere when it was tough. Eric knew he wasn’t the smartest kid, but he would try.
In my undergraduate studies, I had taken a math class at FPU about the history of mathematicians. In the class we studied different mathematicians. John Napier fit perfectly into my curriculum on multiplication, so I decided to teach my students about Napier and his method for multiplication. (As a side note, I love Napier’s story because people thought he was magical, but he was really just smart. Also, my students loved the reader’s theater about Napier, and it reminded them that problem solving is an important skill for life.)
Within the lessons I showed my students Napier’s Rods and explained how it was a really old calculator. Students are always excited about calculators, so they were naturally engaged. Here is a short video on how to use Napier’s Rods.
For many of my students using the rods to multiply was a little difficult. The students had to know which numbers to ignore and which ones to look at for the problem.
So I also taught them Lattice Multiplication, an early Hindu method of multiplication. I started by teaching the students how to build the box, draw the diagonals, and where to place the numbers they need to multiply. Their favorite part was doing a disco every time they drew the diagonal lines. I think the power behind this method is that it is two simple steps and it doesn’t mix the operations.
Learning Lattice Multiplication was an empowering moment for Eric. After a few days of practice he showed me a four-digit by four-digit multiplication problem! He was so proud of himself and felt so smart! I was so excited for him. I knew this was a special moment for him.
Ultimately, many of my students chose to do their multiplication using the lattice. I taught them the area model and traditional model as well, and I would often have students solve problems using two different methods.
Teaching my students different ways to multiply allowed them to learn that their classmates may prefer a different method, but they could both solve the problem. It also encouraged them to try to look at a problem a little differently.
I would love to hear stories of how an alternative method empowered one of your students to be successful.
Click here to download the Reader’s Theater.