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Addition—Not So Easy

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Source: The Arithmetic Teacher, Vol. 12, No. 3 (MARCH 1965), pp. 207-211

Published by: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41186883

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Addition - not so easy

Professor Hilaire is a member of the department of mathematics

at State University College.

J' dictionary defines addition as "the equivalent to the number property of all

of the separate sets, the addends. This

uniting of two or more numbers into one

sum." How does one "unite" numbers?concept of addition is often symbolized:

One cannot see number. Addition, ifN(A)+N(B)

so = N(A+B). N(A) is read:

defined, must be a mirage. the number property of set A. If A= {0,

+ , x} and B={-, #}, then NJO, +,

Number is the property of a set that

X}=3and N{-,#}=2.AUB={0, +,

tells "how many." If A= {0, + , x} and

B={-, V, #} then A^B. But N X,{0,-, #}, N{0, +, x, -, #}=5, and

N{AUB}=5.

+,x}=3andN {-, V, #}=3, and three

Does such symbolism confuse our think-

does equal three. Even if sets A and are

ing? Can addition be considered as the

disjoint sets, there is something about

them that is alike. This something, union

the of sets? If A= {0, +, x} and

"how many," is known as number. In B=the{0, +, /}, then AUB= {0, +, x, /} ;

N{0, +, x}=3, N{0, +, /}=3, and

second example given, both sets have the

N{0, +, x, /}=4, but 3+3 = 6. Does the

same number property. This particular

symbolism of set theory offer a more pre-

property has been symbolized as 3 and

given the name three. Every set that cise

can mechanism which will make the

teaching and understanding of addition

be placed in one-to-one correspondence

with either set A or set will also have easier?

this same number property, 3. This can If addition is a process, then can the

be illustrated: process perhaps be seen? When one puts

three blocks with two blocks, this process

{o + x} is seen. The five blocks can also be seen.

Is this synthesis addition? Is "putting

,} i * together" or "uniting" really addition? If

{a a } so, then how must one think of 3+2?

Does one put the numerals together thus,

{ / *} 3 2, or thus, 2? Addition is more than a

"putting together" process.

All these sets have the same number Addition is an abstraction. It cannot be

seen. It exists as a concept in the minds

property - three. How does one "unite"

such properties? of men, much like the concept, number.

Since it is an abstraction, it is difficult to

For some, addition might imply synthe-

reveal the meaning of addition. How then

sis, putting together. When one puts three

can addition be taught meaningfully? Can

blocks together with two blocks resulting

the discovery method be used? Perhaps

in five blocks, is this process addition?

not in a true sense, but can children be

Others consider addition a process by

which sets are combined to form a new led through experiences which should aid

set, the sum, whose number property isthem in generalizing underlying, recurring

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patterns? By such a technique they might Children should be given experiences

conceive the process of addition. A se- which lead them to generalize several

quence of such experiences will be out- important properties of addition. First:

lined. It is hoped that you will criticize a+b = b+a, or the order in which num-

the procedure, for through such criticism bers are added makes no change in the

better methods for the presentation of sum. This is known as the commutative

addition may be found. property of addition. A child could be

Consider 3 to be associated with /// shown a card on which buttons are sewn

and 2 to be associated with //, then 3+2 as in Figure 1. The child could then be

would be associated with /// //. But 5 is

also associated with /////, so 3+2 = 5.

The /s in /// can be counted one, two,

three, continuing through the // as four,

five. This shows that the set associated

with 5 has as many elements as the set

associated with 3 together with the set 0

associated with 2.

Figure 1

/// //

* VV f WE WRITE

given the opportunity to discover that

the two buttons and the three buttons

results in five buttons. If the card is then

<* < <*

turned around, the number of buttons has

not changed since none was removed nor

were more sewn to the card. The child is

The numbers represented by 3 and 2 are

now confronted with the situation pictured

the addends, the number represented by 5

in Figure 2. There are still five buttons.

is the sum. Addition is an outgrowth of

counting. The recognition of the combina-

tions without counting is the ultimate aim O 0

of good teaching. This requires drill,

meaningful practice. Children should be

encouraged to understand what takes m it

place when they add first by manipulating

concrete objects and then by proceeding

to the semi-concrete patterns and pictures,

before getting into the abstractions

Figure 2 such

as 3+2+4 = 9. Many teachers fail to give

children sufficient time to draw their

From own

such proceedings a child should be

generalizations about what addition is. able to generalize that 3+2 = 2+3 and

Learning to recognize that 3+2 = 5 is read that this property holds true for any two

as "three plus two equals five" does not numbers which are to be added. Second

assure one that the child knows or under- graders have been known to call this the

"communitative" property of addition.

stands the process of addition. Only if the

child has had the experience of joining After all, "communitative" is a good "five-

three blocks to two blocks and then count- dollar word" which could become a "ten-

ing them, and only if this is followed by dollar word" if spelled correctly and a

many other similar experiences with other "fifteen-dollar word" if properly defined in

objects, can he be led to understand the their own words. They do love to go home

meaning of 3+2 = 5. with big words.

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Second: (a+)+c=a+(6+c), or the of course, the reverse is true because of

manner of grouping the addends leads to

commutative property.

no change in the sum. (3+2) +4=3

+ (2+4). If three and two are added, giv-Example: 0+4 = 4 4+0 = 4

ing five, and then four is added to theirZero is the identity element for addition

sum, the result is nine; the same result can When it comes to adding numbers

be obtained by first adding two to four and

greater than ten, bundles of toothpicks

then finding the sum of six and three. Thisare helpful. For example:

is known as the associative property of addi-

tion. Manipulative materials such as lima 32+26+18=?

beans, etc., could be used to show this 32- >3 bundles of ten picks and two

principle (Figs. 3 and 4) . separate

26- >2 bundles of ten picks and six

separate

18 - >1 bundle of ten picks and eight

ooo ocr> separate

six picks, and eight picks results in o

ooooo bundle of ten picks and six separate. Th

'WV' ' bundle of ten added to 3 tens, 2 tens, an

1 ten makes 7 tens. No longer does o

say, "put down the six and carry on

Figure 3 The child is taught that there is a ten

be added to the other tens. He also is led

to generalize that ones are being added to

ones and tens to tens. Having had such

boo 5o y experiences with manipulative materials,

the child may then be ready for illustra-

ill ' V,l tions, such as those shown, in Figures 5

O C9 through 7.

When working with children, it is poor

' ' ' , / / / policy for one to say, "put down the three

Figure 4

32- 3O + 2

Third: When working with denominate

26 - 20 +6

numbers such as 3 feet, 2 yards, and 6 48-40 +8

oranges, only like things can be added.

90 +16

Example:

3ft.+5ft. = 8ft.

3 yd. +2 oranges (cannot be added)

90+10+6

3 apples +6 peaches (9 pieces of fruit,

but not a specified number of apples or 100 +6

of peaches)

106

the result is the same as the number itself;

Figure 5

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and carry one." Truly, a one is not car-

H E N

NN I ried, but something does happen to 1 ten.

U S Second, units are not added to tens. Such

S R S

A E carelessness leads to wrong concepts and

N D

D S a poor understanding of mathematics.

_S What does one do for the child who

learns faster? Surely one should not give

4 2 6 him more of the same thing. Why not

345 deepen his knowledge? Teach double-

column addition (Fig. 8) .

_2___ The child could also be taught ways to

check addition. One check is to add in re-

I3 verse order.

2

tion of the commutative and associative

Figure 6

principles of addition.

Another common method of checking

addition is known as "casting out nines"

H 1 U or "excess of nines." Children are often

U N N

asked to experiment with this concept in

g s I

s different number bases. They soon learn

i

that one less than the radix is to be "cast

out." Another interesting observation is

that the number 425 is equivalent to 47

" nines with an excess of two. This excess

of two can be found by adding the digits.

2 6 4 4+2+5=11, then 1+1 = 2. In addition

the total of the excesses in the addends

J_3_5_ (numbers being added) equals the excess

Figure 7

426 -*4+2 + 6-* 12 , I + 2 -* 3

347 -* 3 +4+7-^14, If 4^*5

1 52-- I + S + 2

925 -9 4-

Double-column addition

Figure 9

Starting from top,

think:

One can easily see that this is not a proof

64 64+30-* 94 for addition. If the digits were reversed,

32 (30+2) 94+2 -> 96 for example, from 925 to 295, this incor-

45 (40+5) 96+40-6 rect sum would still check. Also, if two

+23 (20+3) 136+5 ->141 balancing errors were made, for example,

from 925 to 934, this incorrect sum would

164 161+3 ->164 also check. Nevertheless, checking by

Figure 8 casting out nines is used because the

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456 4- 279 chance of such errors is minimal.

STEPS The bright child might be interested in

12 3 4 5 the historical approach to mathematics.

Why not let him investigate the scratch

7 7 73

1 X /' XX method of addition (Fig. 10)?

6 62 $2. fas &S There is a lot for a child to learn about

Sb tfib 4fi6 4U ?*4> addition. One must teach more than

19 9 Z*9 tf tfj

reading the fact that 3+2=5. Addition

ANSWER 735

not easy to teach. It must be taught wit

Figure 10 meaning.

{Continued from page 203)

indeed very little, to the concept of a set; it is

unnecessary and unnatural, and it need not and

[XXX X) should not be introduced until we study sets per

se, perhaps in junior or senior high school.

Note also that in our representation each

puzzle, each pupil, and each member, or each

Again, consider the class of pupils. The mem-

element of the set is represented by one cross or

bers of this class can be represented by dots en-

one dot or one point. This means that

closed by a rectangle. Again, we can label the

a) one element of a set cannot be represented

by two points, and

b) one point in a representation cannot sig-

nify two elements.

However, the position or order of the points is

immaterial in designating the set. Children can

change their seats in any order, and they still

stressed that the point represents a member,

rectangleand it A3does not represent

to any accoutrement

show that

A, of all may belong to thethird

the member. This method of gr

ing a representation helps to identify

number of an element suc

as an

finally entity - as one or a single thing - of a set.the

introduce

for a Once this meaning and representation

collection, aof a classet

and the has been attained, we have

word all the necessary

elemen

member, toolsetc.for using sets to develop

We the ideas of map-fin

exhibit a ping,

set equivalent sets,

of and the number

elemeof a set as

points. a property of all equivalent sets, which indi-

cates the numerosity or manyness of a set.

Ordering of the numbers, counting, and the

fundamental operations on number can be de-

veloped by abstracting them as corresponding

operations on disjoint sets, that is, sets that

have no members in common. How to do all this

has been described to some extent in a previous

article by the author.3

Howard F. Fehr

Teachers College

Note well that the symbolism using braces, Columbia University

e.g.,

* "Modern mathematics and good pedagogy," Thb Arith-

metic Tbachub, X (November, 1963), 402-411.

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