To this day, whenever I am asked to add two numbers larger than two digits, I experience an inner conflict. Should I grab a pencil and paper and do column addition? Or use mental arithmetic?
As a teacher, there are many moments where I find myself torn between finding the correct calculation method to follow, or just looking at the numbers and solving the problem by steps that appear logical to me. My question: is that just me? Or do you experience the same?
During my schooling, maths was a matter of following procedures and rules, and involved endless practice. I could follow and apply the steps as required, but understand little of it in a deeper, interconnected way.
During a recent Year 4 lesson, my class worked on an addition word problem as an anchor task. The class came up with a number of strategies to solve the problem including drawing number lines, using column addition, partitioning and recombining numbers. As individual pupils explained their thinking, peers could listen and make their own mathematical connections from what they heard. This is a totally different lesson approach from one I might have taught in the past: explaining one method to solve a problem, and letting pupils practice it repeatedly. The question is: which approach is better?