# Talk

## when did 'sums' become 'number sentences'?

(45 Posts)
mintyneb Tue 08-Jan-13 13:36:34

Just before Christmas my DD (aged 5, yr 1) brought home a pile of papers she'd been working on at school. One of the pages included some numbers and a series of questions relating to them.

the first question asked 'how many number sentences can you make with the numbers above?' Now I could make an educated guess as to what the question meant, but really, why do sums have to be called number sentences?? It was the first time I had ever seen the phrase.

If anyone can provide any logic as to why a perfectly reasonable word (well it did me now harm when I was at school!) needs to be replaced with something else, I would be grateful. Oh and at the same time, also explain why 'insects' now have to be taught as 'mini beasts' instead. I've still not got my head around that one!

teacherwith2kids Tue 08-Jan-13 22:23:18

Tbh, I tend to use the term 'calculation' for what might in colloquial terms be called 'a sum'.

However, number sentence is an entirely valid description, and certainly much more accurate than 'sum' for e.g. multiplication or subtraction calculations.

Why tell children one year that 'any calculation written with numbers and symbvols is called a sum', and then the next year say 'oh, actually, now we are going to tell you that sum means addition so you can't call them sums any more'?

Much better to teach clear, correct and unambiguous terminology right from the start - sometimes simplified, in the 'number sentence' moves on to 'calculation' moves on to 'equation' sense, but at least not blatantly incorrect / misleading!

(Though, as I say, I would use 'calculation', and 'invertebrates' - if SEN pupils can master 'diplodocus' (and explain how it is different from a stegosaurus), 'calculation' is a doddle)

teacherwith2kids Tue 08-Jan-13 22:25:46

(It's obvious, of course, that you can't call everything that might be studied in a 'minibeasts' topic 'insects', as that is scientifically incorrect. A worm is an invertebrate, but it is not an insect - and to artificially remove worms from a topic which might well cover e.g. millipedes and caterpillars just so that you can correctly call it 'insects' would be perverse)

alanyoung Tue 08-Jan-13 22:33:36

Hi mrscog, thanks very much for your encouraging remarks and I am glad you agree.

sausagesandwich34 Tue 08-Jan-13 22:38:33

I quite like number sentences

you start at the left and move to the right, just like reading!

it's a concept they are familiar with

both my dds are in primary and have grown up with number sentences, number lines, chunking and they are much better at maths than I was at the same age and I've got an A level in the subject!

I could follow a process but I didn't understand why that process worked, I just knew it did

they understand why

realcoalfire Wed 09-Jan-13 12:35:53

a number sentence is an equation or inequality.It is a statement in numerical terms.
It isn't true my junior maths text book in the 1970s talked about number sentences.

realcoalfire Wed 09-Jan-13 12:36:10

It isn't new not true LOL

chicaguapa Wed 09-Jan-13 12:41:29

I was always taught that the sum is the answer, not the question.

learnandsay Wed 09-Jan-13 12:42:45

To be fair to the OP she only asked when did it happen. If the answer is 1945 then that's still OK.

DewDr0p Wed 09-Jan-13 12:45:24

I quite like number sentence. I'd be a bit horrified if teaching was exactly the same as it was when I was at school tbh - the idea that noone had had a good idea about how to make it better in 30 years is rather scary!

I'm naturally quite good at Maths and it strikes me that a lot of modern Maths teaching is explaining good strategies to children (for making mental calculations for example) that are a close approximation of what I used to do in my head. Teaching less able students the tricks that more able students might be using sounds like a good plan to me. I don't remember it being as explicit when I was at school.

mintyneb Wed 09-Jan-13 12:53:33

OK guys, so it looks like I'm the one who's getting the nomenclature wrong in my head! I'll just try and keep quiet when it comes to what DD is coming home telling me

I learned maths by some awful method called Fletcher Mathemathics which used to frustrate the hell out of me by taking a whole page to do one sum! I guess the 'sums' did include sentences as we had to draw copious amounts of arrows and label them as 'can be written as'.... I can safely say its a learning method that has stayed with me all these years although for completely the wrong reasons.

All I can say is that until 2 years ago I had never heard the term mini beast (depsite having been educated at the same time as some of the other posters on the thread) and until a month ago had never seen the phrase 'number sentence'. You live and learn!

malinois Wed 09-Jan-13 13:03:21

'Number sentence' makes much more sense than 'sum' (which as others have mentioned suggests addition only.)

A mathematician might use the word 'expression' rather than 'number sentence' but it means the same thing, and there are a lot of analogues with a word sentence: it needs to be well-formed according to a predefined syntax, you need to identify the different parts (operators and operands, nouns and verbs) and you interpret it according to a known grammar (e.g. BODMAS)

mrz Wed 09-Jan-13 16:47:44

^ chicaguapa Wed 09-Jan-13 12:41:29^

I was always taught that the sum is the answer, not the question.

chicaguapa Wed 09-Jan-13 18:23:19

I couldn't remember when I was taught that but it was when I did my Montessori training. But, yes it's only the answer in addition but it is never the question.

learnandsay Wed 09-Jan-13 18:28:15

Can't the word sum just have more than one definition?

mrz Wed 09-Jan-13 18:31:40

It does have a number of definitions but in maths it means the result of adding two or more numbers/quantities.

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 09-Jan-13 18:45:26

'Hara-kiri should be introduced to some sectors of local government et al. '

I think you'll find that the correct term is seppuku, Rollmops.

If you think it's hard as a parent, imagine being a really old teacher who has to constantly unlearn and relearn what the latest, correct terminology is.
Yesterday's word bad, today's word good, tomorrow who knows?

cumfy Wed 09-Jan-13 19:07:12

Are number sentences and number stories the same thing ?

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 09-Jan-13 19:17:13

Number stories are word problems here, so you might have a number story, have to write the relevant number sentence and then solve it.

mrz Wed 09-Jan-13 19:17:38

Are number sentences and number stories the same thing ?
no... A number story is a description to help the child visualise the number sentence (you would start with the sentence -so something like 3+6=)

and you might create the number story -

Ava had 3 apples and Oliver had 6 apples. How many apples did they have altogether?

mrz Wed 09-Jan-13 19:17:58

It's a bit like a word problem in reverse

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