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Completing the Learning is about Filling in the Gaps

Since I’m sure we haven’t met, let me introduce myself. I’m Mike and I joined the Writing to Win team recently, and to say that it was a big time change for me is quite the understatement. We say completes the learning a lot, but what does that mean? It took me awhile to figure that one out. Then came a request from my 10-year-nephew that made me feel like an utter fool. Parker asked for my help on a math problem since in his eyes, I am a genius (Actually, his respect for me hinges entirely on how quickly I can beat parts of video games he cannot.). I pulled up a chair and sat down in it backwards, so he knew I was showing up as Uncle Mike, the Fun Uncle – the Funcle if you will. Nobody was going to wedge themselves in between our unbreakable bond of mathematics tutorship. Thinking cap firmly screwed to my head, I pulled his worksheet to my face …


… and I had no clue what I was looking at. This was my first introduction to “New Math,” and I was assuredly out of my element. I’ve always been more of a writer than a number cruncher, but math was never a subject I struggled with. Yet here I was, befuddled and stammering over a worksheet from a kid a third my age. The heading, Order of Operations, brought up misty memories of high school for me, not 4th grade. There were new strategies, new visual aids, and a completely radical shift in thinking. Quite frankly, I was perplexed, so I bashfully excused myself with a weak, poorly crafted reason and exited the situation with tail firmly tucked between legs.


Thankfully, for me and now for you, I vented my embarrassment to one of the Writing to Win team members who prompted me to study this worksheet in a way I could remember it longer, maybe even deeper. April said, “Try this.” and flipped open to a page of writing strategies in one of our manuals and thumped her finger on the words “Quad Cluster.” She told me to write down the important math terms from the worksheet. On one side of the worksheet, we pulled difference, product, quotient, and sum. From the other side, we wrote down addend, dividend, divisor, factor, and subtrahend.


She told me to pick three from one group and one from the other, so I picked sum, product, divisor, and quotient) I immediately saw that divisor was the odd one out. Echoes played in my head of Big Bird singing, “One of these things is not like the others!” Divisor was a part of the problem in division, one of the four math operations. The other three – sum, product, and quotient – were all solutions in math operations: addition, multiplication, and division respectively. I felt like I already knew these things and I wasn’t sure where this was heading.


She didn’t stop there, thankfully. She asked me to explain how division related to the other three terms. My blank expression betrayed me. She saw my distress and continued, “In this Quad Cluster, the relationship is class-to-class. Sum, product, and quotient are all in the class of solutions math operations, and divisor is in the class of parts of a problem.” She also explained that other Quad Clusters represent relationships of part-to-whole, cause-effect, problem-solution, or members of one class. Whew! She moved me easily into DOK2, even 3 thinking, and it clicked with me. I told her thanks and heard, “Don’t mention it, sharing like this with a partner is a Writing to Win signature; we help each other more than if either of us were working strictly on our own.


I was brand new, a greenhorn, and I didn’t even realize that I’d been led through using Writing on Demand’s Quad Cluster critical-thinking strategy. Analyzing the relationship between the math terms not only helped dredge up terms from my school days, but it also helped me recall all of the solving operations that involved those terms. I am a genius to my nephew once more.


Integrating reading and writing in the study of math operations helped me dispel the frightening facade of this new way of presenting classic mathematics. Analyzing a math worksheet for key terms and constructing a short response made it easy for me to think critically. It also helped me see that all key terms in all courses of study relate in ways that make it possible to understand the whole. I represented my own version of the puzzling worksheet that connected the dots in the pieces of math operations in a way I’ll remember for a long time. It completed my learning. Writing on Demand is what we call it, and now I saw firsthand how every students’ writing anywhere can benefit from writing on demand with a concrete, easy-to understand strategy like the Quad Cluster.


Writing on Demand, www.writingtowin.com/writing-on-demand/

1 Comment

  • Sernie Elliott on September 3, 2021

    Welcome aboard. I know Dr. Combs is delighted to have you on the team. You have many more exciting discoveries to make.

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