development, many of the linkages among strands result from children’s natural inclination to make sense of things and to engage in actions that they understand. Children begin with conceptual understanding of number and the meanings of the operations. They develop increasingly sophisticated representations of the operations such as counting-on or counting-up procedures as they gain greater fluency. They also lean heavily on reasoning to use known answers such as doubles to generate unknown answers. Even in the early grades, students choose adaptively among different procedures and methods depending on the numbers involved or the context.45 As long as the focus in the classroom is on sense making, they rarely make nonsensical errors, such as adding to find the answer when they should subtract. Proficiency comes from making progress within each strand and building connections among the strands. A productive disposition is generated by and supports this kind of learning because students recognize their competence at making sense of quantitative situations and solving arithmetic problems.
Step-by-step procedures for adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing numbers are called algorithms. For example, the first step in one algorithm for multiplying a three-digit number by a two-digit number is to write the three-digit number above the two-digit number and to begin by multiplying the one’s digit in the top number by the one’s digit in the bottom number (see Box 6–5).
In the past, algorithms different from those taught today for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division have been taught in U.S. schools. Also, algorithms different from those taught in the United States today are currently being taught in other countries.46 Each algorithm has advantages
Box 6–5 Beginning a multiplication algorithm