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Mike Fleetham Mike's Thinking Classroom Blog

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Big Numbers, Numeracy and Budapest

Judgement aside on the likes of Tony Hayward (pot £10.4 million, annual pension £600,000) and Fred Goodwin (similar) and on the UK's massive overdraft of £many billions, I'm reminded of a trip to Budapest a few years back.

You get many Forints to the pound (340 today in fact) which got me thinking about the numbers Hungarian children are exposed. Are they better at handling big numbers than children in countries where money uses less decimal places? Do they 'get' the size of a million or a billion better than others?

But now the UK school population sees and hears huge numbers daily (bigger by about x1000 from when I was a kid), do they understand place value and estimation any better? Thesis there for someone.

My guess is yes, they do, but only if skilled and alert educators draw it out with appropriate lessons. A starter called "Who's Pension?" or a plenary: "Just how much in the red are we?" might do the job.

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