Mnemonic Tip: # 41          January 04, 2004
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The Problem
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  This week an adult student who needs to pass a placement test so that he can enter a training program as a step in his career change presented the situation for this weeks mnemonic clue.  He reported years of frustration with math and a current fear of the subject as he faces the placement test.  We worked on why he struggled with math and he began to understand that, although he basically understood the concepts, he had difficulty relating the numbers and symbols to the concepts.  In particular was the concept of place value and how the numbers fit into the places.  Many students find place values difficult because of the words:  billion, trillion, million, tens, hundreds and ones.  Individuals who have learning problems often forget the sequence of these terms and are not able to use logic to figure them out.  This student stated that he had always been confused by the words used with numbers but, with recent instruction, he now knows the place values.  However, he was still confused by the place values of number to the right of the decimal point.      
  The Mnemonic Clue  
  This mnemonic clue involves the HTO pattern for place value.  Individuals who have difficulty with the vocabulary of numbers can learn the HTO (Hundred, Ten and One) pattern, learning to read all numbers separated by commas as HTOs  (246 -- two hundred, twenty-four.   589,246  --  five hundred, eighty nine, two hundred, twenty-four).  
   When teaching students the place values of numbers to the right of the decimal point, it is helpful for those students who have learned the HTO (Hundreds, Tens, and Ones) pattern to read the decimal point as if it was the ones column (O) and learn that the pattern for decimals is OTH.  This makes it easier for the students to remember that the number after the decimal point is in the tenth place.  When seen on a number line, it produces a mnemonic clue:  Oh Tooth.  And the idea that one of the Os in the tooth has no value and can be extracted can help the student to remember that there is no ones column after the decimal point.   



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Richard Cooper