# Fair trade – what’s it to you?

What do you think of when you hear the word “trading”?

As an early childhood teacher, I think of trading games that we use in maths lessons to help children understand place value. In our decimal system, we use ten digits in various combinations to represent numbers. Placement of each digit is vital; for example, 290 is very different from 902.

Without a firm understanding of place value, it is difficult to work with numbers efficiently. I believe that many difficulties with number stem from insufficient understanding of place value. Children need to experience numbers in a variety of contexts to fully understand the decimal system.

For younger children just beginning to learn about two-digit numbers, we may connect interlocking blocks or bundle popsticks to form groups of ten.

When children have a firm understanding of the grouping process, and the way the numbers are represented with two digits, they move to a similar process with numbers over one hundred. It is at this time that we introduce trading.

Instead of using interlocking cubes or other items that can be linked or bundled, ten individual cubes are traded for one ten, and ten tens are traded for a one hundred flat, and so on.

I feel so strongly about the importance of children learning place value, that I have made a variety of resources for teaching it. The resources, available from readilearn; include:

Beginning place value – the train game

Race to 99 – A place value game for maths groups

The interactive resources

Playing games has always been a favourite activity for me, and always popular for family gatherings. We’d quite often we’d spend holidays, like Christmas and Easter, when the children were growing up, playing board games or card games. One of our favourite games, especially if there were larger numbers of people (up to ten) was a trading game called “Billionaire”. It is a raucous game. Everyone is engaged all the time. Play involves trading cards (commodities) with each other, and this involves much shouting (over the top of each other) and laughter. If you have never played it, but enjoy games, and have a group of four or more to play, I highly recommend it. (Sorry, I couldn’t find it to add a photo. It’s hidden away in the games cupboard somewhere.)

I couldn’t write about trading without mentioning Jack and the Beanstalk. Mother sends Jack off to the market to sell the cow. Along the way, he meets a man with a handful of “magic” beans which he offers to trade for the cow. Not having heard the saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, Jack agrees. Of course, Mother is none too pleased and throws the seeds out the window. But, as the story shows, Jack was right to trade and rewarded for his ignorance of the oft-touted adage. (The story also raises other issues regarding trespass, theft, and causing fatal injuries. But we won’t go there this time.)

For my response I’ve ended up in the playground yet again. It involves a little trading of cards, but more a trading of power. I hope it works.

Cards, were coveted like gold. To belong, one was enough; more better. Each lunchtime the boys showed off new acquisitions, compared intelligence and strength points, and traded duplicates. Fair and friendly battles pitted minds, the winner claiming card supremacy. Then bully Boris won, and none dared challenge. Until Justin, tired of Boris’s tactics, dared.  The group gasped. It seemed Justin would be crushed. But clever cardless Frank slipped in and showed the winning move.  Boris growled, “Inadmissible” and threatened repercussions. Defiant, Justin handed Frank a card, bestowing membership. Empowered, each boy followed, declaring Frank the Master, and trading opened.

## 27 thoughts on “Fair trade – what’s it to you?”

1. julespaige

This reminds me of the baseball trading cards… Some men collect the whole boxed sets and never open them. Where others took doubles and put them between the spokes of bike to make noise. Good for the master trader!

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1. Norah Post author

I think some expected the cards to increase in value over time if they were never opened. Funny how we are entertained by simple repetitive noises, like something in the spoke of a wheel. Thanks for reading and sharing.

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2. Mabel Kwong

Interesting read about fair trading, and the concept of trading. I like how you brought back up childhood acitivities and stories. Jack and the Beanstalk has such an important message – you don’t trade to get rich overnight, but you trade to grow. Growing up, I remember playing Monopoly a lot when I was a kid and I had to watch what property and vehicle I owned and trade them in wisely in order to come out tops in the game 🙂

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1. Norah Post author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Mabel. I like the interpretation you added to Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s a good one. Monopoly and I weren’t well suited, but it does involve some shrewd trading. Thanks for joining in the conversation.

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3. Charli Mills

Norah, I’m in awe of your wealth of created teaching materials and your ability to break down the components of learning. Your flash has great tension as the boys gather round to see how one stands up and wins against the bully. Great take on the prompt!

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1. Norah Post author

Thank you for your kind words, Debby. Monopoly crossed my mind too, but it was never a favourite game of mine. It always seemed to move too slowly and take too long.

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4. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

Love your math games and lessons! Kids often struggle with math concepts and your materials, etc. make it accessible, clear, and tangible. Not to mention fun!
Your flash is a great example of how trading and positioning is such a non-tangible yet important commodity, particularly in those terribly crucial playground years. Great message that resonates on various levels – well done.

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1. Norah Post author

Thank you for your generous comment, Lisa. I am pleased you can see the benefit of the maths games; and to know that the flash story worked.

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5. thecontentedcrafter

This prompt has generated quite a range of experiences – as usually happens with Charli’s prompts 🙂 You sure were working on a number of levels with your ‘trading’ story Norah and my hat is off to you for containing and conveying it all so succinctly. I wonder how often such scenarios turn out the way you pictured – I’m hoping more often than I am aware of!

And, in my experience, you are totally correct about place value understanding. I remember being totally stumped at times on how to get the concept across. I can still see some particular little faces looking at me in complete bewilderment – while other of their classmates rocketed ahead having ‘got’ it. And I also recall the joyful moment when the penny finally dropped (each one in their own time) and the eyes sparkled and the fingers moved and the mouth formed an ‘Oh!’ of delight. And even while I smiled with them, inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief 😉

Your posts often take me back in time Norah, thanks for the memories! 🙂

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1. Norah Post author

Thank you for your kind words, Pauline. I’m pleased the flash worked. It took many rewrites to get it to where it was and I wasn’t sure I had told enough in the end when it had all become so familiar to me.
It is lovely to experience the sense of amazement when “the penny drops”, isn’t it. To think you’ve helped it drop, makes the moment all the more special. I’m pleased the post helped you rekindle fond memories.

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6. robbiesinspiration

You are really speaking my lingo this week, Norah, with this post about trading. I do work for the stock exchange so this is my game. I was delighted to read this post as children often ask me what I do and I haven’t been able to explain it very efficiently to them at all. I am now going to use your great analogies to do so. Your 99 word flash fiction was lovely too.

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1. Norah Post author

Wow! A stock trader will use my analogies to explain trading. That’s awesome. Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash too.

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7. Kate

Norah, you always add a thoughtful and interesting viewpoint to Charli’s prompts. Teaching children math with games is fun for both the kids and the teacher and without knowing it, they both trade information and knowledge. Your flash captured the subtle trading of power and acceptance wonderfully.

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8. Annecdotist

Fabulous post, Norah. Your reference to the importance of “place” in the conceptualising numbers with more than one digit is intriguing, and triggered various associations which are probably not relevant to your post here goes. During my first degree in psychology I did some research on order effects in memory (for number) – I can’t remember the results but it was based on the premise that memory for the digits is different to memory for the order they come in.
Secondly, do you come across a kind of dyslexia for numbers? I often find that I write down a three digit page number incorrectly – of course that might be just that I’m too distracted.
Great flash, too, I do remember those crazes for cards that came in a pack with a sheet of bubble gum and then trading the duplicates. And your board game sounds fun – don’t think I’ve come across that one.

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1. Norah Post author

Thanks for sharing your psychology research on memory for numbers, Anne. It sounds like an interesting result. I have only thought about the way a series of numbers is used to determine short term memory. I wonder what may make order important. Dyscalculia is the name given for difficulty with numbers. I’m sure there are many afflicted, but I think a lot of the problems are taught rather than inherited. But I don’t really know. It’s just a hunch. I think a lot of reading and maths problems stem from inefficient teaching. Fortunately most of us seem to manage. That doesn’t make it any better for those who don’t though.
I’m pleased the flash worked by conjuring recall of trading cards. I think you and I both referred to the need for equity in trading practices. 🙂

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9. LucciaGray

Great post, Norah.💗 I love your idea of ‘place value’ and playing games to learn. Math is so hard to grasp. I think teachers really need to work on that in all subjects. Great anti-bullying flash, too. If you’re clever enough you can outdo the bullies!

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10. Steven

You have written a delightful little piece. I don’t know if you intended it, but you also demonstrate how non-tangibles such as knowledge and acceptance can be traded as well. Very clever.

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1. Norah Post author

Thank you, Steven. I appreciate the way you always find the positives in what I write, wringing as much potential meaning from my words as possible.

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