Big Endian Arithmetic

Posted by: | Posted on: October 18, 2013

I never excelled at arithmetic.  In fact, when tutoring, I tell all my students that I’m horrible at arithmetic, so they need to pay attention when I’m teaching to make sure that the answers are indeed correct.  This tends to work very well with my students because they are often trapped in big brick an mortar buildings where the giants let them know that, barring a severe illness, they are always correct.  My students are the type who relish in finding typos in the book.  But I digress.

Please show our children Big Endian Arithmatic!

Big versus Little Endian is a wink to the Lilliputians of gulliver’s travels (a must read by 7th grade), and while totally relevantly irrelevant in computing, it is quite pertinent to the  arithmetical achievement of the mathematically underachieving. You see, while failing to excel in arithmetic, I was very good at estimation.  My dear mother challenged me to calculate tips (which I enjoyed, and I don’t know why) and calculate percentages off (which I did not enjoy), and so practice made me do well.  Estimation is the Hallmark of success of Big Endian Arithmetic, because the larger values are calculated 1st.  So as a arithmetical underachiever, i developed a habit of mental estimation to determine how far off my calculations were…saving me the need to check my work, and ensuring my elementary laziness.

In Big Endian addition 432 + 275, we add the 4 and 2 to get 600 something, then the 3 and 7 to get 10, so its 700 something and then the 5 and 2 to get 707.  But in school we are taught Little Endian math, and so our little 2nd and 3rd graders are evaluating things from the least relevant end….knowing that the answer will end in a 7, but failing to get the relevance of it until the problem is completed.  For our little academics this creates little problem, as they tend to be imbued with patience…but for our deviants….the underachievers that lack detail, this ability is the crux to mental self check.  So, let them be taught.  If not by you, by somebody.  Don’t let relevance take a back seat to Little Endian logic.

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