Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweating the small stuff: Some thoughts on math education.

Computers and calculators are changing the education process significantly. Any student who types a paper has a spell checker and probably a grammar checker, but that's no promise they'll get everything right, especially when it comes to homonyms and such, like their, there and they're.

In math, some things that seem very simple to anyone who is even a little proficient can be struggles for students in pre-algebra and beginning algebra classes. A perfect example is writing a fraction problem like

3/5 = ________

and having many students give the answer 1.666666667, which is the correct calculator answer to 5/3. It seem "obvious" to me that small/big must be a number less than 1, but a lot of students try to turn it into a division problem and mix up the divisor and the dividend.

I'm going to be doing some other short posts on gaps in math education many students have. I don't do this to deride the students, it's just that somewhere along the line something relatively simple slipped through the cracks. I don't have the solution for how to fix this, but I do want to acknowledge these problems exist.


Anonymous said...

"Small" and "big" made me think of something different ;)

Matty Boy said...

One of My People forwarding Our Agenda, I suppose. Welcome, brother!

Or sister. No judgments.

Anonymous said...

To clarify: Yes, I am. I've actually been a lurker for quite some time and might even have commented on something (else) already. Hence your welcome doesn't fit entirely. It's still appreciated of course.

So, regarding Our Agenda, personally, I like them from above factor 1.0 up to 30, while I'd prefer 10.

The maths are appreciated too. In fact there is a multitude of reasons for me to read your blog.

And regarding that other thing, let's say I'm to be addressed as sister though I do not usually publicly appear as such just yet.

Matty Boy said...

Glad to re-make your acquaintance, sort of. I have been less than generous about posts specifically for Our People, so I'm thinking of bring back one of The Greatest Hits, or at least it is so to my mind.

Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

The start of this semester a professor friend who teaches MBA reasoning flunked half the class on the first test. A wake up call? Not hardly. The students complained to the Dean and the Dean said you better please your students because the college is in debt and we can afford to lose you before we lose them. Is this our modern day top tier education in the good ole U S of A?