1/31/16

Essential Addition Strategies for Young Children

Want to listen to an expert talk about the most essential addition strategies our young children should be learning for future success?
You can listen to this episode above, listen to it on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcript below.
Dr Elida Laski
This is episode 10 and today I’m speaking with Dr Elida Laski who is an Assistant Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College in the US.
Elida’s primary research focus is mathematics in early childhood and she has published many papers and won many awards for her work, including being highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, Science Daily and CBS Radio. For our purposes, however, her most outstanding qualification is that she was, originally, a Kindergarten teacher, so she knows what she’s talking about!
If you want to check out her research further, pop over to The Thinking and Learning Lab.
The Education Podcast Network
The Early Childhood Research Podcast is very proud to now be part of the Education Podcast Network. There are a growing number of excellent education podcasts there, so if you’re keen to find more podcasts to listen to, go over and try some of them out.
Now to the interview.
Elida Laski, welcome to The Early Childhood Research Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Thank you so much for having me, Elizabeth. I think what you’re doing is really important.
What is decomposition?
Today we’re talking about one of your areas of research, and that is the early use of decomposition for addition and its relation to base-10 knowledge. When I hear the word ‘decomposition’ the first thing that pops into my head is the picture of an apple core slowly rotting away in my garden. What does ‘decomposition’ mean when we’re thinking in terms of mathematics and young children?
Well, I think your image of an apple core rotting away captures the essence of decomposition, it’s breaking down. And that’s how we refer to it with the mathematics of young children. But decomposition is just the breaking down of a problem that might seem difficult or more complex into simpler problems that are easier for children to handle.
So, I could give you some examples of the kinds of problems children might use decomposition on and how they would break them down.
Types of decomposition
There are a number of different kinds of decomposition.
One of them that is more familiar to early childhood teachers is the breaking down of problems into known facts. For example, if the child was given the problem 6+8 they might automatically know that 6+6=12 and then 2 more would be 14.
Another kind of decomposition is when you have 2 double digit numbers and you break down the process of adding those together into first adding the tens and then adding the units. For 38+23 you would say 30+20 is 50, 8+3 is 11, 50+11 is 61. It allows them to perform mental math without having to worry about the algorithm of carrying the ones.
And then the final kind of decomposition that’s really quite common in the East Asian countries, and one that has been shown in my research to be really important for helping children do mental math, is known as going ‘through 10.’ That one would be, for example, if you had 24+9 the goal is to break down the 9 to get to the next possible decade. So you’d say, ‘24+6 is 30’ and then just add whatever’s left over, so you’d have 33.
So the kids really have to have a good understanding of how those numbers all go together to be able to do this.
Yes, they need to understand the difference between the tens digits and the ones digits, and how those are composed to make a bigger number which is the idea of the base-10 structure. They also have to have quite a bit of fluency with how to break down 9, for example, into various ways. Sometimes 5+4, sometimes 6+3 and so forth.


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