A few years ago, Dennis DeTurck, an award-winning professor of mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania, stood at an outdoor podium on campus and proclaimed, "Down with fractions!"
"Fractions have had their day, being useful for by-hand calculation," DeTurck said. "But in this digital age, they're as obsolete as Roman numerals are."
DeTurck is stirring the pot again, this time in a book scheduled to be published this year. Not only does he favor the teaching of decimals over fractions to elementary school students, he's also taking on long division, the calculation of square roots and by-hand multiplication of long numbers.
DeTurck does not want to abolish the teaching of fractions and long division altogether. He believes fractions are important for high-level mathematics and scientific research. But it could be that the study of fractions should be delayed until it can be understood, perhaps after a student learns calculus, he said. Long division has its uses, too, but maybe it doesn't need to be taught as intensely.
Hmmm....I need to think about this one. I need to figure out what benefits there are to fractions over decimals.
Off the top of my head the one thing I can think of is when you are physically cutting something into pieces, fractions are much simpler to use for that. I personally like them better in different situations. Decimals, however, are great for situations involving money, weight, or distances. But, does a general understanding of fractions determine a understanding of decimals?
Hmmm......I need to think about this one.
Can you think of any reasons to keep fractions around?