Calculating 30 percent of 20 can be a tough concept for elementary- and middle-school pupils.
Using poetry, Lewiston Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Brett Cooper hopes to make the computation a little easier with his new book, Pesky Percentages: A Mental, Visual and Poetic Approach to Solving Percentage Problems (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Ind.; $12.50).
Mr. Cooper, 31, said he felt the traditional method of teaching percentages - moving the decimal point, multiplying, then moving the decimal point back - didn't fit with real-life methods of solving percentage problems.
"If you go to a construction site, where most of those guys are doing numbers all the time, they're converting numbers and percentages using shortcuts and tricks," the nine-year teaching veteran said.
"My idea was to kind of get kids to be able to learn the tricks that adults learn later on."
To help a pupil calculate out a 15 percent tip at a restaurant, Mr. Cooper said a child can easily figure 10 percent of the bill, then divide that amount in half to get 5 percent and add the two.
A poetry-lover and musician, Mr. Cooper knew he wanted to use poetry to deliver his tips when he began writing the book in September 2003, which was published earlier this month.
"I went poetic because that appeals to a lot of your less mathematical people," he said.
"I'm very musical anyway. I like poetry, and I like playing my guitar. My next step is to take this and turn it into a song using my guitar."
Mr. Cooper said he sees the book as a great resource for parents and fellow teachers. Separated into five increasingly more difficult sections, the book offers a 20- to 30-minute lesson each day and includes 10 pages of reproducible practice problems.
"As a teacher, it's all ready," he said
"You've got your lesson for the day. Then you give them practice problems, and you can see which ones are getting it and which ones aren't."
Some of the shortcuts can even aid adults.
"To figure out 40 percent, most adults have a hard time doing that," Mr. Cooper said. "If you take 10 percent and do it four times, it's so much easier."
Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 113, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You've mastered fifty, it's easy to do/ Now 25 percent is just step two/ Half of half sounds a little tough/ But once you practice, it's easy enough
You find half of a number and do it again/ Half of forty's twenty, half of that is ten
25 percent is what you just found/ Half of half is easier than it sounds
- Pesky Percentages by Brett Cooper
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