Developing informal written computation

Year: 2002

Author: McIntosh, Alistair

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent Federal and state mathematics curriculum documents have shifted from a requirement that all students should learn the standard algorithms for the four operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to stating that all students should develop strategies for calculating mentally and should then acquire secure and understood, but not necessarily standard, written computation methods. While the move towards a greater emphasis on mental computation through the development of strategies is generally well developed in Australia, the implications of 'not necessarily standard written computation methods' has received very little attention. This paper describes preliminary work from a research project designed to explore the interface between mental computation and non-standard written methods. In particular the impact on teachers and students in grades 2 to 4 of at least delaying the introduction of formal written algorithms for addition and subtraction and the development of practical ways of building secure but informal written methods on children's mental computation strategies are described.