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# Marilyn Burns

After I told Steven, the man seated next to me on an airplane, that I was a math teacher, he described the Dealing in Horses problem that he was given at a corporate management training session. The problem has been one of my teaching staples ever since.
April 28, 2015
When a workshop participant raised his hand to offer how he was taught to subtract when he was in elementary school, I was surprised by the process he described. He called it the “trouble-coming method” of subtraction. I hadn’t ever seen it before, and I’ve never seen it since.
April 14, 2015
Here’s another post about subtraction. I’ve long been a fan of having students invent and use their own methods for computing, as long as they can explain why their strategies make sense. Here’s what I learned from Jesús, a fifth grader.
March 30, 2015
A word problem on a third-grade standardized math test didn’t call for a numerical answer, but instead asked students to decide if the problem should be solved by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. One third grader complained to his teacher, frustrated because he thought there was more than one correct possibility.
March 19, 2015
Word problems have long been difficult and frustrating for students to solve and for teachers to teach. A colleague recently forwarded an email from a woman looking for resources to help her fourth-grade granddaughter with word problems. I thought for several days about how to offer positive support to both the grandmother and her granddaughter.
March 10, 2015
This post is about subtraction, which is typically difficult for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Think about 503 – 398, for example. To estimate the answer, I can change the problem to 500 – 400 (rounding 503 to 500 and 398 to 400). That gives me an estimate of 100, which I know is close. But how can I know if the actual answer to 503 – 398 is greater or less than 100? I raised this question with third graders.
February 25, 2015
Several months ago I received an email message from my friend Sandra. She wrote, "If you want something new to distract you, try playing the new game 2048. I’m finding it addicting." I took Sandra’s advice and downloaded the free app. And, like Sandra, I found it addicting. But it also led me to think more about what I think is important when we teach math.
February 12, 2015
General Interest
My 15-year-old granddaughter Charlotte is a diligent math student. When I checked recently to see how she was doing with her Algebra 2 math homework, I found her sitting on her bed with her computer, iPad, and phone, managing to text friends on and off as she worked. She asked me for help.
February 3, 2015
Reading may seem like an odd subject for my math blog, but here I describe how my love of reading and math connected (and my confusion as an emerging reader about hearing voices). This post was included in Open a World of Possible, an anthology from more than 100 contributors that you can access as a free e-book.
January 22, 2015
My friend Ann sent me an email about her unsettling experience at the supermarket deli counter. Ann has never felt particularly confident with her math ability, and I was pleased (and amused) that she asserted herself in this situation. Also, Ann’s comment to me about the work we face as math teachers rang true.
January 13, 2015
How much is 12.6 × 10? This is a question from the Math Reasoning Inventory (MRI) decimal assessment. What do you think were the most common incorrect answers given by the more than 7,800 students who figured out the answer in their heads? And what about the boy who answered, “One hundred twenty and thirty-fifths?”
January 5, 2015
General Interest
When I entered college, I knew I would become a teacher. I’d always liked school and often played school at home with my sister and my friends. I enjoyed math, so I decided to major in mathematics and become a math teacher. But while math made sense to me in my earlier studies, my college experiences were very different. I struggled.
January 2, 2015