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!

learnandsay Tue 08-Jan-13 14:12:25

I can't help you with mini beasts, but when my daughter was even younger than she is now and was too young to understand ideas about sums we shared ideas about word stories (sentences) with number stories, (sentences constructed with numbers and symbols) instead of letters. They also came in the same pack of wooden toys. It seemed very intuitive to me and presumably to my daughter too. I don't know why teachers do it. But it wouldn't surprise me if they do it for similar reasons. Also sums, as I remember them, (pages of calculations) have an air of a chore about them, whereas number stories in the sense that I'm talking about them don't.

DeWe Tue 08-Jan-13 14:19:50

I think "mini beasts" is meant to make it more fun. It also stops the constant "a spider isn't an insect" issue.
I agree totally about the "number sentences" or even "number bonds" those make me cringe. I have some suspicion there's a theory of give them a poncy name and the children engage better. confused

Also you can point out to the teacher that the correct answer to "How many numer sentences can you make?" is a simple number, they don't actually have to write any down. My ds would look at that and write "0", and would argue that that was a completely correct answer because he wasn't going to do it.

Coconutfeet Tue 08-Jan-13 14:19:57

Because the word "sum" is associated with addition (as in the sum of 10 and 4 is 14), and your dd's teacher wants her to come up with examples using all four operations and not just addition.

I think you'll find that many things to do with the teaching of maths have changed a lot since you were at school. You'll get used to them eventually. I teach primary and we have to have regular sessions to help parents support their children with maths because we do so many things differently.

I think the minibeast thing is so that they can include things like snails which don't fall under the category of insects.

learnandsay Tue 08-Jan-13 14:24:23

Surely terminology such as product, divisor, sum, difference and so on don't get introduced until much later.

bigbadbarry Tue 08-Jan-13 14:24:36

I'm wondering whether you are from my village as there has been so much discussion over the Y1 Y2 homework of making number sentences!
I assume mini beasts includes worms, snails, spiders and so forth.

JimmyCorkhill Tue 08-Jan-13 14:25:06

It's because 'sum' is another word for 'add' eg. the sum of 4 and 6 is 10. Children have to learn all sorts of mathematical vocabulary to help them with word problems/mental maths Qs/real life maths examples. There are probably posters in her classroom titled 'different words for add/take away' etc. By using 'sum' to actually mean calculation she will be confused if asked to find the 'sum' of 2 (or more) numbers. HTH smile

JimmyCorkhill Tue 08-Jan-13 14:27:00

Oops, I'm a slow typer!
Learnandsay - we introduce all those words in year 3 (they are not expected to know them all BTW, just understand that they exist).

mintyneb Tue 08-Jan-13 14:27:39

that's the problem though learnandsay, there's nothing intuitive to me about it at all!

Sentences are for words and sums for numbers. Other than them both having a start and a finish I don't really get any similarities.

I'm still waiting for school to hold a maths workshop so that I can understand how they teach maths these days. I was at primary school far too long ago and things have definitely changed since then. From what I can see there's a whole new language to learn to start with with .... number bonds, number sentences, chunking, bus stop........

I actually loved maths at school and remember writing down pages of numbers to add up ... just for fun!

Rollmops Tue 08-Jan-13 14:28:28

Insect as a mini-beast????? To make it more fun????? Number sentence!!! Shall we call the eejits who think up such nonsense, moronic nitwits, because it suits them better than educational consultants???
Hara-kiri should be introduced to some sectors of local government et al.
Yes, many things have changed in how maths is taught and the results are rather shambolic.
angry

learnandsay Tue 08-Jan-13 14:31:47

I'm getting the impression that as children get older in primary school the vocabulary becomes more familiar to us oldies. I suspect rather cleverly it's introduced in this dumbed down toy fashion so as not to appear intimidating. If you introduce it using its formal methodology too early on I suspect you split the class into those who do understand it and those who don't. And I suspect those groups remain throughout life.

mintyneb Tue 08-Jan-13 14:38:25

oops, plenty more replies since I started my first response.

I do see some sense in all your replies but I guess its an age thing on my part and that I'm probably going to struggle with all manner of 'modern' terminology that DD will no doubt be coming home with!

DeWe, I'm definitely with you on your first comment and no bigbadbarry I'm not from a village but its good to hear there's the same debate going on elsewhere!

I do get that mini beasts can cover a broader topic but I'm afraid it's not a term that I've ever used in the last two years since I first heard it. And I do get that 'sum' could cause some confusion in that it makes someone thinking of adding numbers together but to me it's just a generic phrase for a string of numbers that you need to do something with.

I can see me doing a fair amount of biting my tongue over the next few years!

learnandsay Tue 08-Jan-13 14:42:44

Also, for those bright and very young children who already love multipliers, remainders, divisors, factors and infinity (at the age of four) there is nothing to prevent them from continuing with their practices and their terminology. (Hopefully the primary school teachers will understand it.) The old method and the new method aren't mutually exclusive. They're just different. In a previous discussion a teacher said she didn't mind how her children calculate so long as they reach the correct answer. That's a relief to some oldies.

JimmyCorkhill Tue 08-Jan-13 14:43:07

Just wait till your DD starts subtracting by drawing jumps on a number line!!! You're in for some pain grin

Coconutfeet Tue 08-Jan-13 14:45:56

Or doing division using chunking (or have they stopped that now?)!

quiller Tue 08-Jan-13 15:02:06

I thought I knew what number sentences were, but then we got homework involving 'write the number sentence' and the answer was to use apples, pears, sweets etc, not j ust numbers - so it seems teachers aren't always clear about it either. 'Maths for Mums and Dads' is your new best friend, though.

HousewifeFromHeaven Tue 08-Jan-13 15:07:17

Ffs I couldn't even work out a number line grin

Do they even have those still?

nickelbabylyinginamanger Tue 08-Jan-13 15:08:53

number sentences doesn't make sense, because they're not always numbers. confused

minibeasts does, because not all small creatures are insects - it also covers arachnids and other things.

mrz Tue 08-Jan-13 16:50:14

Surely terminology such as product, divisor, sum, difference and so on don't get introduced until much later. with the exception of divisor reception children will be using mathematical language

children will be expected to use
addition
adding
plus
more than
total
equals
altogether
remainder
subtraction
the difference between
minus
reduce
decrease
take away
groups of
lots of
multiplication
share equally
group
division
divide into

number sentences doesn't make sense, because they're not always numbers.

number sentences are equations using simple mathematical symbols

alanyoung Tue 08-Jan-13 19:35:16

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

learnandsay Tue 08-Jan-13 21:38:32

Alan, I'm not familiar with the apologies which you're referring to. But is it at all possible that both professors are simply being humble as is the British tradition? There is also an issue to do with popular/populist writing which is to be inclusive. I'm not sure what the maths that you're talking about looks like. But I'm pretty sure that strings of equations are going to elucidate the subject for a relatively small minority of readers. I'm sure that minority needs no apology. But the publisher wants to appeal to the widest majority for obvious reasons. I'm sure the professors don't launch into an apology when they address a student body.

marquesas Tue 08-Jan-13 21:48:56

minty - if you enjoyed and were good at maths yourself at school you won't have any problems understanding the way it's taught now.

IME parents are too hung up on how they were taught and seem reluctant to accept that a different method can be just as good. If you are good with numbers you probably use the "new" methods in your head anyway you just don't give them a name.

I find it's easier to not worry about things having different names otherwise you'll just get annoyed every day smile

EcoLady Tue 08-Jan-13 21:54:32

minibeasts = invertebrates = animals without back bones.

I have always introduced the term 'invertebrate' when I've done the subject in year 1/2. Nothing wrong with teaching them the correct terms.

.... which fits with not saying 'sum' for anything other than addition :-)

alanyoung Tue 08-Jan-13 21:54:47

Learnandsay, the books I am thinking about off the top of my head are Brian Cox's E=MC2, a book which is certainly not going to be read by people without a scientific background of some sort (but still an apology is given) and Professor Hawking's A Brief History of Time. My point is that this apologising for maths is endemic in our society and once you are aware of it, you will see it in many places (the BBC, magazines etc). People do not apologise for using big words or quoting Shakespeare or other famous authors we are all supposed to be familiar with, even though there is less study of them than of mathematics on the normal school curriculum.

My point is that apologising gives people (particularly young people) the impression that mathematics is not important, when it is vital to our future technological development as a nation. If we want our youngsters to do well in mathematics we should treat it as a subject that demands some respect and encourage them to be good at it as we would encourage them to be good at reading and writing, for example.

I hope this makes my point clearer.

mrscog Tue 08-Jan-13 22:10:28

Great points Alan I hate the attitude of 'rubbish at maths' I don't find it acceptable from adults. I do accept that maths teaching over the years has been poor and that a lot of people find even basic maths difficult. If you're an adult and find maths a challenge then you should look at the khan academy website as there is step by step tuition of mathematics right from the basics.

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 grin

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.

The sum is only the answer to an addition calculation

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.grin

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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