Tag Archives: decimal number system

Standard Algorithm of Addition: Part 2

I believe that math students of all ages learn abstract notions by first experiencing them concretely with shapes they can actually see, touch and manipulate {visual model}. we will use of concrete teaching aids such as base-ten blocks help provide insight into the creation of the standard algorithm for addition. In this blog, we will use them to find the sum of two whole numbers, 29 and 47 (A). I will be using two types of blocks (B). A green square block has a value of 1 unit, and a blue rod has a value of 10 units. I represent the values of the two addends using these two blocks. I make sure that they are grouped in the appropriate columns according to the structure of the decimal number system (See “Decimals”). I then add all the blue rods together in the tens column, and add all the green squares together in the ones column (C). Notice that we have more than ten green squares. I group ten of these squares together (D) and replace them with a blue rod (E). This blue rod gets moved from the ones column to the tens column (F). Now we have seven blue rods and six green squares, which represent the sum: 76 (G).

We can use these two blocks to visually add numbers 1-99. Additional blocks can be added that represent larger multiples of 10 so that larger whole numbers can be used.

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Standard Algorithm of Addition: Part I

As part of our primary education in mathematics, we have all been taught a standard method for adding two or more numbers together. Students learn how to add a series of whole numbers by following a step-by-step process until they can apply it without making an error. As part of the math education, it is also important that math students understand why this step-by-step process, the standard algorithm of addition, works.

First we need to set up our arithmetic expression of addition properly {number model}. In the blog, “The Vocabulary of Addition,” we learned the math terms for the different components of arithmetic expressions and equations involving addition. In that blog, the arithmetic expression and equation was presented in a horizontal format. Such expressions and equations can also be presented in a vertical format. This is the format that is used to teach and implement the standard algorithm of addition.

The arithmetic expression, 89 + 47, is expressed in a vertical format.

The arithmetic expression, 89 + 47, is expressed in a vertical format.

Note how the digits in the one's column and ten's column are aligned vertically in this format.

Note how the digits in the one’s column and ten’s column are aligned vertically in this format.

The addends

The numbers listed in this format are the addends of the arithmetic expression of addition.

Plus Sign

The plus sign, the symbol representing the operation of addition, is placed to the left of the addend at the bottom of the list.

The Underline

The underline is used to separate the addends from the sum that is about to be calculated. It serves the same function as an equal sign.

When listing the addends associated with the arithmetic expression, the digits associated with the 1s column must line up vertically. The digits associated with the 10s column must also line up vertically. (See the blog “Decimals” for more details). This will make it easier to execute the algorithm properly. All math students should be encouraged to set up these addition problems properly and write them neatly to avoid confusion.

The most common way to gain insights into the validity of algorithms is to express its abstract concepts to the math student in visual concrete ways {visual model}. We’ll explore this concrete model of addition in Part II.

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Today, we are going to take a closer look at the elements that make up the set of natural numbers. If you remember from a previous blog, this set represents all positive integers within the set of real numbers.

All real numbers (which include natural numbers) are made up of one or more digits. The digits we use in our modern numbering system are 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Note that there are ten numbers that are made up of one digit (0-9). There are ninety two-digit numbers (10-99), and there are one thousand three-digit numbers (100-999). All real numbers can be expressed in this decimal notation, even fractions. This will be looked into in a future blog.

The position of the digits within a numeral is as important as the digits themselves. The numeral “476” is not the same as the numeral “674” even though both numerals use the same three digits: 4, 7, and 6. In order to understand why this is the case, we need to understand the decimal number system. I’ll show the structure of this system by illustrating the number “six hundred and seventy-four” in three different ways.

In this system, each position represents a multiplier used to determine the magnitude of the digit in its slot (A). The rightmost slot in any number has a multiplier of 1. The slot to its left represents a multiplier of 10. The third slot from the right represents a multiplier of 100. Theoretically, this can continue indefinitely.  Very large (or very small) multipliers can also be expressed using scientific notation.Each slot represents a different multiplier that is ten times more than the slot to the right.  Since all the multipliers in this system are multiples of ten, the decimal notation system is also referred to as a base-10 system. The arithmetic expression (B) is a way of expressing the relationship between the multipliers and its digits. The number (C) is a shorthand way of expressing this arithmetic expression.  There are other numerical systems that use a multiplier other than ten.  We’ll explore these systems and their practical applications in a future blog.

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India & Zero

Lets look at one piece of evidence cited in the history of zero. In order to find it, you will have to go to Gwalior, India, the site of an impressive late 15th c. medieval fort which occupies a plateau in the center of the city. On the eastern side of this plateau is a 9th century Hindu temple, the Chatarbjuj temple, which is carved out of one single chunk of stone. It is dedicated to Vishnu, but it is no longer an active site of worship for the Hindu faithful. Just inside the inner chamber, there is a dedication tablet. By accident, it records the oldest use of “0” in India, for which one can assign a definite date (876 AD).

You will find a more detailed and fascinating description of this site in an essay , “All for Nought,” written by Dr. Bill Casselman (University of British Columbia, Math Department) for the American Mathematical Society. You will see many numerical values on display in the temple inscriptions. These are the numbers as they appeared in the dedication tablet. The numbers 4 and 6 were not written in any of these values.

The essay shows that by 876 A. D. our current place-value system with a base of 10 had become part of popular culture in at least one region of India. including the concept of using zero as a placeholder for “nothing.”  There is a high degree of certainty that the decimal place value notation was invented and developed in India from the 1st to 5th century A.D. There were many number systems simultaneously being used by various cultures throughout Asia and Europe during that time. The knowledge of this system spread from India in a very indirect and complicated way to western Europe via Persian and Arabic mathematicians. Many refer to the decimal place value notation we use today as the Hindu-Arabic number system.

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