Friday, July 18, 2008

long division

Every now and again I read that some schools aren't teaching things like long division or long multiplication, and that many parents hate this state of affairs. Most recently, there's this. (Hat tip: Eric.) I won't pretend to be an expert on K-12 pedagogy, but I will state a selfish reason of mine to favor the teaching of long division. I'm a calculus TA, and there are problems in calculus that are solved with the help of polynomial long division (integration of many rational functions; finding oblique asymptotes of many rational functions). There are always students who have no idea how to do polynomial long division. I explain it as long division, but with x in place of ten.


Blogger xenobiologista said...

When my family stayed in IL (moved from Malaysia) for a couple of years, I was in high school and volunteered for a program to tutor elementary school kids. I was helping a 6th-grade girl with math and almost dropped dead when she pulled out a calculator to compute 24/6.

"Does your teacher let you do that?"
"Yeah, we use them all the time."

I still have memories of being made to stand in a closet in Year 3 (3rd grade) because I forgot to memorize the nine times table the night before. I'm not arguing that rote memorization is generally a good method of learning, but there are some things that are so basic that you're crippled if you don't know them.

8/06/2008 12:13 AM  

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