Learning Math: Number and Operations
Divisibility Tests and Factors Part A: Alpha Math (35 minutes)
“Alpha math” problems, where each letter stands for one digit of a number, can help you identify some of the things you know about the behaviors of particular base ten digits under various operations. Your task is to decode each of the following problems, figuring out what digit each letter represents. See
In the following sums, one letter always represents the same digit in each problem, and no digit is represented by more than one letter. Replace the letters with digits:
Consider the following:
• What does the sum of a and a in the hundreds column tell you about the value of a?
• Notice that the sum of b and c in the tens column is different from the sum of c and b in the ones column. What does this tell you about the value of b + c?
• Notice that the sum of b and c in the tens column is b. What does this tell you about c?
Each letter represents a different digit of a number:
Decode the problem to determine the following value:
In these problems, the asterisks represent missing digits (though they do not all represent the same digit, as do the letters in the previous problems). Identify the missing digits in the following multiplication problems:
Each letter represents a different digit of a three-digit number. Decode the problem:
TAKE IT FURTHER
Jen has found a special five-digit number that she calls abcde. If you enter the number 1 and then her number on a calculator and multiply it by 3, the result is the same number with a 1 on the other end:
1abcde • 3 = abcde1
What is her number?
Doing Alpha math is like decoding a cipher — it helps the solver think about how different number/letter combinations relate to one another. For example, ab + b = cdd suggests that a must be 9, because no other digit in the tens place would give a three-digit sum. The most that could be added to 9 in the tens column is 1, because two one-digit numbers cannot add to more than 18. That means that d must be 0. Since the sum has equal ones and tens digits, b must be 5. This type of reasoning is an important step toward a deep understanding of the operations involved in the Alpha math problems.
a. The number y must be either 5 or 0. Since the sum is not 0, y is 5 and m is 1.
b. The digits m and a must be consecutive digits, since (in the tens place) m plus carry equals a. So a is 9 and m is 8.
c. Since the sum is two digits, the digit l must be 1 or 2. It cannot be 1, since the sum of four identical numbers is always even. So l is 2, and n must be 3 (since 3 • 4 = 12), and g is 9.
d. Since x plus carry equals ba, x must be 9 and ba must be 10. So x is 9, b is 1, and a is 0 (the sum is 999 + 1 = 1,000).
The number a2 is a two-digit number, with digits different from a. The number a3 is a three-digit number, with different digits from both a and a2. Here are the possibilities:
a = 5; a2 = 25; a3 = 125 (no, since c = a = 5)
a = 6; a2 = 36; a3 = 216 (no, since c = a = 6)
a = 7; a2 = 49; a3 = 343 (no, since d = f = 3)
a = 8; a2 = 64; a3 = 512 (yes!)
a = 9; a2 = 81; a3 = 729 (no, since a = f = 9)
The value of bc – a = 64 – 8 = 56.
a. The solution is 169 • 7 = 1,183. It is easiest to first find the upper-right asterisk, then use the known carry digits to fill in the rest of the product.
b. The solution is 47 • 9 = 423. The units-digit asterisk must be 9, since 63 is the only multiple of 7 that ends in 3. Then, with the carry digit 6, only 4 • 9 = 36 + 6 = 42 can give the leading digit of 4.
c. The solution is 64 • 6 = 384. The digit being multiplied by must be either 5 or 6 (to give a hundreds digit of 3); if it is 5, the units-digit would have to be 0 or 5. Since it is 4, the digit being multiplied by must be 6. Then the remaining units-digit asterisk must be either 9 or 4; 69 • 6 = 414 is not valid, so the remaining asterisk is 4.
The fact that the sum of a and a equals c, a single digit, means that a can be no more than 4. The fact that the sum of c and b is two different values means that b + c must be larger than 10; it also means that a and b are consecutive numbers. Since the sum of b + c (plus any carry digit) equals b, then c must be either 0 or 9. Knowing that b + c is greater than 10 means that c must equal 9. So the sum is now:
Finding a is next. Since a + a (plus any carry digit) equals 9, a must be 4. Then b must be 5, since 9 + b = a, with no carry possibility. The final sum is:
We can solve this by building abcde starting with e. Since e • 3 ends in 1, e must be 7. Then d • 3 + 2 (carry) = 7, so d is 5. Then c • 3 + 1 (carry) = 5, so c is 8. Then b • 3 + 2 (carry) = 8, so b is 2. Then a • 3 + 0 (no carry) = 2, so a is 4.
The number abcde is 42,857, and the equation is 142,857 • 3 = 428,571.
Session 1 What Is a Number System?
Understand the nature of the real number system, the elements and operations that make up the system, and some of the rules that govern the operations. Examine a finite number system that follows some (but not all) of the same rules, and then compare this system to the real number system. Use a number line to classify the numbers we use, and examine how the numbers and operations relate to one another.
Session 2 Number Sets, Infinity, and Zero
Continue examining the number line and the relationships among sets of numbers that make up the real number system. Explore which operations and properties hold true for each of the sets. Consider the magnitude of these infinite sets and discover that infinity comes in more than one size. Examine place value and the significance of zero in a place value system.
Session 3 Place Value
Look at place value systems based on numbers other than 10. Examine the base two numbers and learn uses for base two numbers in computers. Explore exponents and relate them to logarithms. Examine the use of scientific notation to represent numbers with very large or very small magnitude. Interpret whole numbers, common fractions, and decimals in base four.
Session 4 Meanings and Models for Operations
Examine the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and their relationships to whole numbers. Work with area models for multiplication and division. Explore the use of two-color chips to model operations with positive and negative numbers.
Session 5 Divisibility Tests and Factors
Explore number theory topics. Analyze Alpha math problems and discuss how they help with the conceptual understanding of operations. Examine various divisibility tests to see how and why they work. Begin examining factors and multiples.
Session 6 Number Theory
Examine visual methods for finding least common multiples and greatest common factors, including Venn diagram models and area models. Explore prime numbers. Learn to locate prime numbers on a number grid and to determine whether very large numbers are prime.
Session 7 Fractions and Decimals
Extend your understanding of fractions and decimals. Examine terminating and non-terminating decimals. Explore ways to predict the number of decimal places in a terminating decimal and the period of a non-terminating decimal. Examine which fractions terminate and which repeat as decimals, and why all rational numbers must fall into one of these categories. Explore methods to convert decimals to fractions and vice versa. Use benchmarks and intuitive methods to order fractions.
Session 8 Rational Numbers and Proportional Reasoning
Begin examining rational numbers. Explore a model for computations with fractions. Analyze proportional reasoning and the difference between absolute and relative thinking. Explore ways to represent proportional relationships and the resulting operations with ratios. Examine how ratios can represent either part-part or part-whole comparisons, depending on how you define the unit, and explore how this affects their behavior in computations.
Session 9 Fractions, Percents, and Ratios
Continue exploring rational numbers, working with an area model for multiplication and division with fractions, and examining operations with decimals. Explore percents and the relationships among representations using fractions, decimals, and percents. Examine benchmarks for understanding percents, especially percents less than 10 and greater than 100. Consider ways to use an elastic model, an area model, and other models to discuss percents. Explore some ratios that occur in nature.
Session 10 Classroom Case Studies, K-2
Watch this program in the 10th session for K-2 teachers. Explore how the concepts developed in this course can be applied through case studies of K-2 teachers (former course participants) who have adapted their new knowledge to their classrooms.
Session 11 Classroom Case Studies, 3-5
Watch this program in the 10th session for grade 3-5 teachers. Explore how the concepts developed in this course can be applied through case studies of grade 3-5 teachers (former course participants) who have adapted their new knowledge to their classrooms.