I don’t love getting political on this blog, but here goes:
Really fascinated with this. THe three excellent bloggers above really said it all, but I’ll take another swing.
1. Result in termination? Try to find someone multiplying by hand at NASA. Making a mistake because you did something by hand you should use a calculator for could result in termination. But every engineer at NASA knows how to multiply, because it’s a critical part of number sense and quantitative reasoning. This question is trying (and we can debate its effectiveness) to promote number sense and quantitative reasoning. That’s all.
2. Really, you can’t figure it out? (Justin Aion follows up by giving this to his kids. Check out their responses)
3. It’s interesting he notes that the question is exceedingly simple subtracting in columns. I think that may be what the teacher is trying to get at — getting students to think more critically about a simple procedure to make sure they can understand it and apply it effectively when the numbers are more complex. If this is a formative assessment task as students transition into subtracting with borrowing (or regrouping, or decomposition, or whatever you choose to call it) then I think it’s well used and extremely valuable to students’ learning. I like the video that Justin points to — a difficult subtraction question when applying the standard algorithm, but simple if students build the conceptual reasoning this question is trying to get at.