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How I can tell the younger son is my child… January 28, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, younger son.
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The younger son is learning how to manipulate negative numbers in math.  However, he was getting very irritated when listening to the ‘lectures’ yesterday.  The lecture would use the term ‘minus’, as in -6 is pronounced ‘minus six’.  Every time it did that, the younger boy would make some exasperated grunt and say, loudly, “Negative!”

I can only think this may be because I always call them ‘negative’.  The term minus, to me, implies an operation. If so, he obviously picks up on subtleties a lot better than I thought.

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1. GMP - January 28, 2012

🙂 That’s funny. In my language, both the operation and the sign are always called minus. It wasn’t until I started teaching undergrads here in the US that I noticed they called them “negative”.

To counter the pedantry — adding a negative number is the same as subtracting it absolute value, hence calling the sign minus is not misguided in my view…

But I agree, a lot of people (including my oldest son) seem to exclusively call the sign “negative”.

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mareserinitatis - January 30, 2012

I guess that’s one thing I had to tell my son explicitly – that adding a negative number is the same as subtracting because they’re the same direction on a number line. I think that helped with him being frustrated…but it was still funny. And I agree with you completely.

I wonder if using the same word would cause the math to make more sense?

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2. Kari - January 29, 2012

I don’t blame him; that has always irritated me also. I have always thought it of it as an operation too, so when I hear “minus 6” I think “WHAT minus 6?”

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mareserinitatis - January 30, 2012

I guess I don’t find it irritating, but it strikes me as the thing a kid would do versus an adult. I think grad school teachers used that sort of thing, but when I got into more advanced math, I almost never heard it.

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