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Raymond Cooper

Take Home Midterm

Note: All of the following accounts are based on tutorial sessions.

Quantitative Adjectives and Quantitative Nouns

The student with whom I have been working recently speaks French. She was familiar
with the terms numerator and denominator, but she did not know that addition of fractions
requires a common denominator. I explained to her that denominator names the thing you have,
and I underlined nom. I asked her how you say name in French, and she said nome. I pointed at
nom, and I told her that that is exactly what nom stands for. I underlined num in numerator and
explained that that was the number of things you have. We discussed how things needed to be
the same for them to be added or subtracted. She immediately understood this, and then it was
just a matter of working out the mechanics of finding the common denominator and adjusting the
numerators respectively. This introduction of the idea of quantitative adjective and quantitative
noun created a great foundation. For example, I was quickly able to dispel the misconception that
an expression like 3n+ 4 is equal to 7 or 7n since ns and ones have different names and are thus
different things which cannot be added.

Skip Counting
One student with whom I am currently working is going to take the CUNY assessment exam
in early April. The first thought that arose in my mind was that she would never be ready for her
exam since she does not know her times tables. Then I thought back to our discussion of skip
counting in 723 and how misguided the idea of the times tables is in the first place. I also
realized that she was attempting to find multiplication facts by skip counting but that she
nevertheless tended to get the wrong answer. I saw hope in the situation because she was
basically doing the right thing. The problem was that she was doing it wrong.
First we identified the multiplication facts about which she was certain and correct. For
example, she knew 6x6=36 and 7x4=28. The next step was for her to actually write down the
next and then the next until she reached the multiplication fact she needed. I added this step
because she would often lose track of what she was doing when she was counting in her head.
Writing each term greatly increased her success rate. Also repetitive skip counting has increased
her inventory of multiplication facts. For example, when counting multiples of 7, she now begins
at 7x5=35, as opposed to 7x4=28. I told her to practice skip counting whenever she happens to
think about it. In a few sessions her competence with respect to multiplication has greatly
increased. This falls in line with the principle that the key to mathematics is less about
memorization and more about reconstruction. I explained to her that even now I sometimes
quickly skip count to a multiplication fact. It is simply the case that I do it so quickly that I
appear to just know it. She is already beginning to believe me. Had I not been exposed to the
idea that skip counting is the best way to learn multiplication, I never would have known that she
was basically on the right track, and we would not have gotten nearly as far in this short period
of time.

Vertical Multiplication
I introduced the multiplication of two factors of a quadratic using vertical multiplication, as
opposed to the FOIL method. I was working with the student to whom I had introduced the idea
of quantitative adjectives and quantitative nouns, so it was easy for me to explain how an
expression like 6x+8 has the same structure as 68 in the sense that 6x+8 is equivalent to 6 xs
and 8 ones and 68 is equivalent to 6 tens and 8 ones. She successfully multiplied factors into
quadratics several times using this method.
In our next session, she explained that she was not sure how to multiply out
x + 7. I explained to her that

+ 6x + 8 and

was associated with the next place value to the left, that if x is

thought of as being analogous to the tens place for example,

the hundreds place. This analogy works nicely since

can be thought of as analogous to

= 100. I also emphasized that x did not

actually equal 10, that it could be equal to anything. She made it clear that she had no confusion
about that issue. After I gave this explanation, which was really an extension and clarification of
what I had shown her in the previous lesson she was able to line the expressions up and find the
cubic expression in the following manner.
+ 6x + 8
+ 42x+56
+ 8x


Thus, she was able, with a little more guidance, to generalize the vertical multiplication

process to terms with larger powers, something she would not have been able to with the FOIL

Application of Quantitative Adjective, Quantitative Noun Placeholder Concept

To a Non-Terminating, Repeating Decimal
One problem I encountered with a fellow student who had also been in 723 was to write
the repeating decimal .454545454545 as a fraction in lowest terms. I had already shown him
the following formula for an infinite sum: S = a/(1-r), and we had applied it to various geometric
sequences to find their respective series sums. His first challenge was that he did not recognize
this decimal as a series. The sequences he had seen were written in this form, a
and the series were written as a


, a , a .

+ a . Seeing no commas and no plus signs put the

decimal expression in a different category in his mind. It was at this point that I brought up the
discussions we had had about quantitative adjectives, nouns and placeholders in 723. He told me
he remembered, but he didnt see how it applied. I then asked him to consider the idea that 37 is








45 hundredths







millionths..or .45 ones + .45 hundredths + .45 ten-thousandths.. He was then able to
see that a non-terminating, repeating decimal is a series of quantitative adjectives paired with
quantitative nouns which pertain to place values. When I asked him what a and r were in this
case, he looked back at the general pattern a , a , a , and he was quickly able to identify a
as .45. It was easy to see that r = a hundredth or .01. Thus, he was able to calculate that .4545
is equal to (.45)/(1-.01) =.45/.99=45/99=5/11. In high school hed learned that .9999999 = 1,
since (10-1)(.999999999)=9.9999999.- .99999999= 9. Since we multiplied by 9 in the first
place, we can divide by 9 to get back to where we started. Doing so, we arrive at 1. It always
seemed like a trick to him, but, upon my challenging him, he was quickly able to confirm the
result using his new found power to sum non- terminating, repeating decimals as infinite series.

Dividing a Fraction by a Fraction

While working with a student I encountered the following misconception:

. So, I realized that she did not know how to divide fractions. Rather than

simply give her the algorithm for division, I used an explanation from 713. I asked her how
many cups which are half full could be empted into 1 cup. She responded that two such cups
could be emptied into another cup, and her tone conveyed a sense of realizing the obvious. I
thought it would be better to do a more detailed exploration of an example where both numerator
and nominator are in explicit fraction form so what that she learned could be more easily
generalized. Thus, I drew two cups, one marked off at , the other marked off at 1/3. I then
asked how much of the water that is filled up to the mark could be poured up to 1/3 mark in
other cup. We had already discussed the idea of the common denominator, so she knew to think
of as as 3/6 and 1/3 as 2/6. I had drawn the cups and marked them in proper proportion so that
2/6 mark on the cup lined up with the 2/6 mark on the 1/3 cup beside it. In this sense, I was
using the method used in our lab on percentage where we marked the left and right sides of a
ruler line showing how calibration converts from one side to another. She was able to see that 2/3
of the cup could be poured into the 1/3 cup. She saw that it followed that 2/3 of the cup fit
into the 1/3 cup. At his point, I presented her with the following method:

. She

asked me how that relates back to our original example, since 1 is not a fraction. At this point, I
asked her what1/1 is. She said of course, and I explained that that any number could be could
put in fraction form using this method. Since this episode, I have seen her successfully divide
fractions several times.

Equating Tangent to Slope

I did not foresee having to teach trigonometry to the student with whom I have been
working. When she showed me the trigonometry questions on her practice exams and expressed
her desire to learn everything, I proceeded to explain sine and cosine to her. When we
encountered a problem involving tangent, I was about to explain how tangent can be thought of
as sine over cosine, or opposite over adjacent. I then remembered our discussion in 723, and I
knew that she was familiar with slope since we had been working with many line equations, so I
began with the simple point that tangent is equal to slope. We were trying to solve the following
problemFrom a hot air balloon, the angle between a radio antenna straight below and the base
of the library downtown is 57. If the distance between the radio
antenna and the library is 1.3 miles, how many miles high is the balloon?
A picture was provided which showed the balloon directly over the antenna, the library
1.3 miles to the right and a diagonal; line extending from the bottom of the balloon basket to the
library. Using the idea that idea that the tangent of the given angle is the slope of the ray
extending at the angle in question, the student was able to determine that
where h is the height. I helped to facilitate thinking in terms of slope by turning the paper 90
counte-clockwise so that the balloon appeared to be at the origin of a graph, and the height
seemed to run along the x axis. In any case, once she had gotten the expression
, it was only a matter of algebraic manipulation to get the correct answerIntroducing tangent by equating it to slope allowed for an almost immediate assimilation.