# [Numeracy 178] Re: The double negative language-math link

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Linda Shilling-Burhans lshilling at cvabe.org
Tue Feb 16 11:03:03 EST 2010

Claire, this is what I'm talking about in teaching math to language arts
types. You should be highly congratulated for being so creative.

﻿ ﻿ ﻿ ﻿ ﻿ ﻿
Linda

Linda Shilling-Burhans
Community Coordinator
Central Vermont Adult Basic Education
802-222-3282

-------Original Message-------

From: Claire Ludovico and/or TJ DeLuca
Date: 2/12/2010 6:44:26 AM
To: numeracy at nifl.gov
Subject: [Numeracy 154] Re: The double negative language-math link

There is always above and below sea level...
I use bank accounts as the most likely exposure of my students to negative
numbers...and the minus a negative example is when one finds a charge (funds
subtracted) that has been (incorrectly) imposed by the bank that is then
removed (taken away) from your balance...or in other words, they returned
your money to you.

I once had to introduce integers to a group in a very limited amount of time
I made up a story about the positive tribe and the negative tribe...both
very warlike but only with the other tribe, never with each other.
Positives, of course, carry two spears, negatives only one. They have very
strict rules of warfare: only one positive may fight a negative ...no
ganging up...and when they fight (so sad) both die. They can hang out with
their own kind, of course, no problem. (Addition)

Subtraction: They are also both very greedy...so in their wanderings in the
woods, if they should spy a new spear laying on the ground (the minus sign)
the positives, who have a spear in each hand, must throw away their two
spears in order to pick up the new spear (and thus become negative) and the
negatives, who carry only the one spear, can reach down and pick up the new
spear...and become positive. Then those former negatives can hang out with
positives (and vice versa) but can no longer face their former kind without
war" breaking out.

Miraculously, the two tribes can marry (multiply) and the product of their
union depends on their signs (multiple marriages allowed (perhaps each
parent "gifts" the same number of spears as he/she carries)...count the
negative signs: odd number, the "children" are negative, even number (two
spears again) the "children" are positive.) Divorce (division) is quite
possible and the rules are the same as for multiplication.

I don't know if my students always get why I tell the story (but then they
don't always get the rational explanation.) As I said, I usually back up
the problems with bank account analogies. But the spear story helps
sometimes if you have a negative (or minus sign) outside parentheses and you
can talk about shooting the spear through the parentheses and changing the
sign of everything inside.
Also, my students were looking at the problem yesterday: (-6) - (-1) = ?
I was able to say," If you have six negative guys and you take away one of
them, how many are left?" They got it.
Claire

On 2/11/2010 8:17 PM, Denney, Brooke wrote:
Michael:

I disagree with your statement that, “negatives carry meaning in
mathematical, but not physical (reality) terms”; after all, it is winter in
the Midwest and negative values mean something in my reality when we are
talking about wind chill factors and really cold temperatures (perhaps
living in a really warm climate you may have forgotten). Also, negative
numbers are used when discussing the grade of the road (i.e., positive or
negative grade). Does anyone else have examples of negative numbers used in
reality?

-Brooke

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