Monday, September 17, 2012

How the Romans Counted

Obviously, this one is all about Roman Numerals and having Alice be able to use Roman Numerals Proficiently is NOT my main objective right now (she has only been introduced to subtraction recently and she still uses her fingers to add past ten for most facts that add up to something higher than ten).  However, since we were studying Ancient Rome (click link for more general resources), I did feel Alice should at least be introduced to Roman Numerals, so did a little research to find resources and I'm including those here. 

In the photo, you see Alice using a "stylus" (which is actually a kebab skewer) in "wax" (which is actually air-dry clay) the way students in Roman Schools would have done (something we did to "experience a little Rome").  She could rub out things she needed to re-do the way they would have then with wax.  She really seemed to enjoy this approach to learning while doing a cursory introduction to Roman Numerals. 

I was a little unorthodox, because I didn't tell her anything about how Roman Numerals work (like that when you put a symbol before another symbol of lesser value it "subtracts" from that symbol and that you add the symbols in a row together to calculate the number represented.  I just gave her a couple of key examples and then expected her to look for patterns to find out those rules herself.

First, I gave Alice something akin to this visual:

I  = 1
II = 2
BUT  IIII  does NOT equal 4.

V = 5 and
X = 10.

For Alice, I basically said, "If this is __, that how would you write ____" and just treated the whole thing like a fun puzzle.

For example, I started with, How do you think they wrote 3?

I said, if XI = 11 and VII = 7 how would the Romans have written six?

And, if XXII = 22, then how would the Romans have written 33?

The toughest one for her was to use IX = 9 to figure out how to write 4 and 14.

I did not get into L, C,D, and M with her and used it as an opportunity to give her critical thinking practice more than to truly educate her in Roman Numerals.  If you ARE tyring to totally educate your kids in Roman Numerals, here are a few useful resources.

After I had done this lesson with her, Alice started noticing Roman Numerals here and there and we discovered a picture book titled "Fun with Roman Numerals" by David A. Adler that has turned out to be a lot of fun.   It explains the Roman numeric system quite nicely and even highlights different times we still use Roman Numerals today.  The pictures are bright and add whimsy to the book.  We will be checking it out again when Alice needs to learn how to use Roman Numerals for real in a couple of years.

Leveled Book (must register to download)  and Worksheets (primary)
Program to make your own worksheets
Lesson Ideas
Arabic to Roman
Roman to Arabic

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