The *New York Times* highlighted an elementary curricular innovation today. It was my first encounter with Jump. The authors of the materials are reporting phenomenal success with students. They attribute the success to “breaking down math to its component parts”. At first blush, this sounds like the Saxon drill and skill rhetoric.

But then the example suggests otherwise:

Take the example of positive and negative integers, which confuse many kids. Given a seemingly straightforward question like, “What is -7 + 5?”, many will end up guessing. One way to break it down, explains [Jump math founder] Mighton, would be to say: “Imagine you’re playing a game for money and you lost seven dollars and gained five. Don’t give me a number. Just tell me: Is that a good day or a bad day?”

There is a subtle but important difference between this example and a standard classroom technique. It’s the directive, “Don’t give me a number.” If this example is representative of the spirit of the materials, then *sense-making* is an important part of the curriculum. More to the point, using students’ intuitions about their lived experience in the real world to draw mathematical conclusions seems to be important.

I’m eager to learn more.

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I like this idea – but some my struggling students seem to have a sort of misplaced confidence in their ability to remember a rule over their ability to apply the problem to a life situation (the rule they can’t remember is their crutch?) – and I don’t have much success with the hard-core cases who always try it that way (trying to change their old ways) – so instead of thinking about such a signed number problem in terms of their own every day experience each time they encounter the problem (what you mean by sense-making?), they dis-remember a rule they didn’t learn correctly and pretty consistently come up with the wrong answer –