Got Math Skills?

Written By: 
Clair Abel, Special Educator

My Life Skills Math students have had traditional math courses in the past, but still remain weak in the area of basic computation. They are seniors and will graduate within the next year. The purpose of the class is to encourage them to use their strengths to solve everyday math problems.

Our three guidelines are:
1) Use the fastest method
2) Use the strategy that that is the most comfortable for you
3) Use the strategy that you know will give you the correct answer

One morning, we examined a problem in class that read: "How many 1⅔ foot pieces can be cut from a 10 foot piece of shelving?" The first student picked up a tape measure and extended it to a length of 1⅔ feet. He then counted aloud as he moved the tape measure repeatedly along a 10 foot board. He was confident that his answer was correct.

The second student looked at the tape measure and concluded that 1⅔ feet equaled 20 inches. He used a calculator to multiply 12 inches by 10 to convert the length of the board from feet to inches. He then divided the result by 20 to find the correct answer.

The problem was originally written to encourage students to work with fractions and mixed numbers by dividing 10 by 1⅔. They had the ability to solve it that way, but none chose that path.

What do you do on a job site when no teachers are around and you need to find the correct answer? That's what we prepare the students for in Life Skills Math.