4×6 is 6×4? Are You Sure?


Few days ago, one of Indonesian internet users posted this in his facebook wall.

After his brother’s homework has been marked really low by his teacher, this person delivered a protest. He questioned the teacher’s reasoning, and argued that 4×6 and 6×4 is the same thing. Oh really?

When we are older and we have already used to the idea that because 4×6 equals to 24, and 6×4 also equals to 24, then 4×6 and 6×4 is the same monster. That’s probably because you might have learned multiplication from memorising multiplication table, and not understanding where it came from.

Unfortunately in Bahasa Indonesia, we don’t have plural form for nouns. While in English we can simplify the question itu four SIXES and six FOURS (the same logic to five apples and two bananas), to show how many fours and how many sixes involved in the question, in Bahasa Indonesia the language does not cover that.

It is a shame that many people still don’t get it after a more elaborate explanation, and still blame the teacher for being “too” strict for a primary school students. Little that these people realised that in the later classes, the mathematical problems would be even more complex than that. Failing to understand one basic simple mathematical rule, and using memory as a shortcut could backfire to the child.

I can understand the rage. I believe that the child’s brother is a smart person. But sometimes being smart, he failed to see that his little  brother needs to know the basic first before catching up with his mathematical knowledge. After all, the teacher wasn’t scoring him based on his ability to calculate only, but also his ability to understand the flow of a process. Unfortunately, this is shared by so many people, who reposted this again and again and indirectly spread ignorance to other people.

I agree that this could probably traumatise the poor little boy, and he probably would hate mathematics for the rest of his life, but it probably could save his life too. Imagine seeing 3×1 in your medication prescription, would you take 3 tablets at once? No, because 3×1 means three times one (tablet). And imagine thinking that paying 50 times £10 for your credit card, and thinking that it would cost you the same with paying 10 times £50.

Luckily, after the teacher talked to the big brother, he finally understood that what the teacher asked was not the sum of the multiplication, but the understanding of its concept. Maybe the teacher did not explain the subject clear enough to be understood by the students.

Of course, there are many grumps and grumbles in the background saying that it is the flaw of our education system which is not allowing students to think differently and be creative. Unfortunately this is another misunderstanding by people who’s probably not working in a creative industry.

Yes creative is good. But you would have to base your creativity in something. Modernism? Surrealism? Are you drawing a cartoon? Are you adding different ingredients in your cake? Sure. Be creative, but without the basic understanding how to make Chocolate Cake, you wouldn’t know how to make Banana walnut chocolate cake with vanilla fillings and sprinkle toppings, with a scoop of ice cream next to it.



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