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Introductory Scenario and Pre-Test

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Sam and Jessica first met in grade school.  They also went to high school together.

The following story is just one episode from their overlapping experience on Planet Earth.  When they were in grade school, of course, what could they know about what their future together would be?  Nothing!  They thought they were just classmates!  Ha!

Once upon a time, though, they weren’t even in grade school.  Some important things happened at that time, but they didn’t seem very important then. They just happened.

One day, Sam was talking to his mother, which he did a lot. His mom seemed to know things that were important and she liked talking about them.

This day, Sam, who was almost five, was worried about starting school.

“What will it be like, Mom?” he asked.

“You’ll learn to read and write, and you’ll learn arithmetic,” she said. What? Sam had never heard of such a thing. “Arithmetic? What’s that?” he asked.

“I can’t explain it,” said his mother, “but it’s very interesting. You wait and see.”

“Wow,” he thought, “I’m going to be learning things even my Mom doesn’t know. It must be pretty important.”

Jessica also liked talking to her mother.  In fact, these sorts of experiences in their families are part of what Sam and Jessica would later find appealing in each other.

Jessica was not the least bit concerned about going to school. Her older sister and brother were already there, and she’d heard all the stories. She expected to have lots of friends, just like they did. But she was curious about teachers.

“What were your teachers like, Mom?” she wanted to know.

Her mother laughed. “Well, I don’t know, really. They mostly ignored me: I wasn’t very good at school, even though I wasn’t that bad, either. Yeah, I remember really hating arithmetic in grade school.”

“What’s arithmetic?” asked Jessica—just as Sam had asked his mother. “It’s a bunch of boring stuff, mostly memorizing things. And the teachers are kind of mean about it.”

These were very minor episodes, and the parents don’t remember them now, just like most parents don’t remember. But Sam and Jessica did remember.

And it made a difference to them.  In school and later on, as you will see.

Take Notes

(to be answered by yourself or in a group)

Think about what you told or might now tell a child in your family (e.g., daughter, son, grandkids, niece, foster child) about “what arithmetic is.”  Be honest: there’s no right answer.

Both kids remember what their moms said—and it’s pretty obvious, of course, that what they remembered meant a lot to the kids.  What does it mean to you?  (Here again, there’s no right answer, but many good ones.)

Module: Helping Students Do Math

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