“Simplify don’t complify”

My older son had trouble with a practice problem from his math club this morning. Part of the problem can from trying to slog through lots of arithmetic.

We went through the problem this morning using his approach – we were running a little bit low on time so we did some (though not all) of the calculations with a calculator. Part of the point of what I wanted to show him this morning was that all of this arithmetic did indeed make the problem a little confusing:

 

When he got home from school we talked through the problem using a slightly different approach. This approach involved trying to do as little calculating as possible:

 

I love my son’s old math motto – “simplify don’t complify”. He came up with this motto when he was 5 or 6 🙂 This is a nice example of a problem where getting caught up in the calculations makes the problem much more difficult and confusing than it needs to be.

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