I recently read an article about the problems of teaching math in this the U.S. (NY Times – Why do Americans Stink at Math) and I believe the core issue has to do with basic numeracy at an early age. I was once asked: “If the number 7 walked up to you and introduced itself, how would it do it?” That question got me thinking about numbers themselves. How would 5 or 9 introduce themselves and how would they be different from 7?
It sounds like an exercise in creative thinking, but, if pursued enough, questions such as these demand that we think about the various properties of the numbers. 7, for example, is: prime, “heavenly,” “happy,” and considered by many to be lucky. How would it introduce itself?
If we want to build strong mathematicians, I believe we need to do a better job in the earliest years of helping students truly appreciate and understand what a number is and how it relates to other numbers.
How to go about doing this will be the subject of some future posts.