Math Properties, Ugh

Properties in math are one of my least favorite things to teach. Not the ideas of them, those are fine (at least most of the time). But the names and connecting those names to the property. Especially for my second language learners, this is a challenge. In a teammate’s room recently I noticed something on her easel that was so brilliant I immediately stole the idea.

She had written one of her student’s names X 1 = the student’s name. For example:

Jennifer X 1 = Jennifer

I brought up one of my students and asked her who she is. She gave her name, looking at me a little oddly. I asked her who she is at home. She gave her name again, looking at me even more oddly. I asked her who she is if she wears a dress. She gave her name, but qualified it by saying that would never happen. I asked who she is on the playground, who she is if we cut her hair really short, who she is if she’s standing on her head. After a few, she and her classmates were chuckling. We talked about the fact that she is herself, no matter what. That is her identity.

We then connected to math and figured out which numbers in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division allow a number to keep its identity. So far, so good.

Next up we tackled the commutative property. I asked if they were familiar with commuters, but that was a flop. I did take a moment to explain what it means to commute somewhere and how it is all about moving. I brought up two students and asked the class who they were. Then I swapped their places and asked again. Of course, this time my kiddos got it immediately. I moved the kids a bit more, but they didn’t need me to do so.

We wrote a few equations on the board to model this, such as:

8 + 13 = 13 + 8 and 8 X 13 = 13 X 8

We figured out, through our conversation, that this only works for addition and multiplication. Not bad.

Building our math identities at our Family Math Night.

I don’t think we’re experts on these properties yet, but we’ve got a better handle on them than I’ve ever managed before. One of the goals from here on out, for me, will be to use the names of the properties regularly to be sure students are hanging on to those. Vocabulary is a challenge. I feel confident they have the identity property, if not the name, solidly. The commutative is one we’ll need to keep playing around with to cement it more.

I feel like I should bake cookies for my teammate!

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