The kid also answered the “How do you know?” question:

“Because 5 is half of 10, and 50 is the same number as 5, just with a 0, and 10 is the same number as 100 just with another 0.”

What does this mistake say about the way kids see numbers and multiplicative relationships?

I’m inclined to say that this is a classic working memory mistake. You’ve got a resources-heavy calculation being done in the student’s head, and you’ve got this 3 floating around in the problem, and it ends up in the ones place.

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

Any idea what’s going on here? In case fuzziness is an issue, the question is “What is the biggest multiplication that you know without thinking very much about it?”

Also, I anticipate getting some flack for the wording of this question being potentially confusing. I don’t disagree, necessarily, but I want to offer a partial defense of the question. First, I had been reading the TERC curriculum and they make a point of not saying “multiplication facts,” instead always saying “multiplication combinations.” I haven’t wrapped my head around what makes sense to me, so I punted on the question, figuring that I’d be there to help kids figure out what it meant. And I did, and everybody else offered answers that made sense. Most importantly, the question served it’s purpose: some kids wrote “8 x 8” while others wrote “1,000,000,000,000,000,000 x 10.”

Explanations? What lessons are there about the way kids think in this work?

1. What exactly is the shortcut?
2. Why does this shortcut seem reasonable?
3. We’d all agree, I think, that 2 x 6 = 26 is not a result of this kid not understanding what multiplication is. I’ve made that mistake before, and I bet that you have too. So, why is it a  common mistake? What does this say about how a mind works while working on math?

[Any advice on how to tag this, CCSS-wise?]

I wonder: should we be giving kids explicit guides for these sorts of algorithms at all? Algorithms ought to be patterns in thought. Does a mistake like this begin to make a case against these sort of printed aids?

Thanks to Professor Triangleman for the submission.

How did this kid come to believe in this algorithm?

Thanks to Amy Burk for the submission.

What’s the mistake? How can you help the kid?

When you’re done with this post, go check out Mary Dooms’ blog and go follow her on twitter. Thanks for the submission, Mary!

This student has done a great job articulating their issue. How would you help?