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Understanding Number Sense (Demo)


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In 2012, research conducted by the University of Missouri found that one in five adults in the United States is functionally innumerate—meaning they do not possess the mathematical competencies needed for many modern jobs (Gear et al., 2013).

Although the results of the research may seem initially distressing, the project concluded that much of what has been typically referred to as the “achievement gap” in mathematics actually results from an “instructional gap” and a lack of high expectations for mathematics achievement (NCTM, 2007). This study reaffirms that all students can learn mathematics and improve functional numeracy, no matter what age or grade—that mathematical numeracy is not fixed. A key part of mathematical numeracy is number sense, the focal content for this module. Number sense concepts and skills form the core of elementary mathematics and are the foundation for functional numeracy (Chapin, 2006). You will learn that the symbols used to represent numbers and quantities are just that: symbols. As a teacher, you need to bring meaning and context to the symbols for your students. You will learn how students acquire number sense and build a conceptual understanding of the base-ten system. In lower grades, students begin to build meaning and understanding through visualizing and manipulating whole numbers in a variety of contexts. In upper grades, number sense extends to larger whole numbers and moves into fractions, decimals, and percents.