Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Power of Actually Counting Large Numbers

One Thousand Pennies

Most four-year olds are very inquisitive. Mine loves developing his number-sense. He loves to ask me “Daddy, which is bigger ___ or ___ “as if the two numbers were about to bout, with the larger being the victor. Without ever practicing counting, he has learned to count to roughly 100 with only a few mistakes. More interesting than this is his development of number placement. Whereas many younger children can count, say to 10, ask them to count backwards and they begin to struggle. Although not fast, my son tends to count backwards just as well as forwards and I think the reason for this is that he developed his sense of numbers slowly without being asked to chant “one, two, three, four…” out loud until he remembered it. With this in mind I want to show you where counting has much more power, with large numbers.

One day my son asked me why 1000 was larger than 100. As most would, I started by telling that it takes ten 100’s to make 1,000, etc, etc. But noticing the blank look I asked for his patience as I decided to count aloud to 100 and then continued onward to 1000. His bright eyes sold me! There was no doubt after about 15 minutes later that 1000 was bigger than 100. To this day he still remembers how big it was.


How To Use This In A Classroom

For a better appreciation of larger numbers from your students have them count them.

Take 15 mins of down time and have your students listen as you count aloud to 10, than 100 than 1000.  Have them time you (you will most likely average one number per second). Next, have them calculate how long it would take to count to 10,000 or 100,000 or 1 million.  Have them express this in terms of days or hours.  
One Million Pennies
One Billion Pennies



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