Decimals – Misconceptions and Strategies
Decimals are a part of our everyday life in some way, when we put fuel in our cars to buying meat from the butcher. Mastering this critical mathematical concept is a necessity (Stephanie Welch, 2010). A decimal is a proper fraction, which is a number less than 1. It is a part of a whole number. Since our numbering system is based on the powers of 10, it is called a decimal system. Decem in Latin means ten (The Maths Page, 2012, Lesson 3). Decimal fractions are represented as the numbers found between two whole numbers. The decimal fraction shows part of a whole number and is written after the decimal place.
Some key understandings in learning about decimals would be-
* the idea that there are numbers between two consecutive whole numbers, for example between 6 and 7 is 6.54. * the place value system can be extended to the right to show the numbers between two whole numbers * to record a number you write the whole number followed by a decimal point then the part of the number * the numbers to the right of the decimal point have decreasing values in powers of ten ie. 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000 and so on. * decimal numbers can be partitioned just like whole numbers (0.84 = 8/10+4/100 or 84/100 or 840/1000)
Prior to learning about decimal numbers students must have a clear understanding of place value, ordering and rounding whole numbers. Without this secure understanding and ability to work with whole numbers, students will not have the prerequisite skills and understanding to move into decimal numbers. Many of the misconceptions students have with decimals arise from the lack of confidence and skills with whole numbers.
When representing whole numbers and parts of whole numbers the decimal place is a separator between the whole number and the smaller part of the whole number. A major misconception students have with decimals is the idea that the decimal place separates...
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