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Volume 2, Number 20

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  19 May 1997                                 Vol. 2, No. 20


Dictionary of Computing | Research in MathEd | Variable Phobia



A searchable dictionary with over 10,000 definitions of:

  - acronyms, jargon, programming languages, tools
  - architectures, operating systems, networking, theory
  - telecoms, institutions, companies, projects, products
  - history, cross-references, bibliography...

and a cross section of MATHEMATICS TOPICS, from abscissa and
Boolean algebra to wavelet and Zermelo set theory.

The Dictionary of Computing aims to provide a one-stop
source of information about all computing terms. It includes
cross-references to other entries and to related resources
elsewhere on the Internet, and bibliographical references to
paper publications. It currently lacks many entries that can
be found in paper computing dictionaries but contains
encyclopedia-like entries on subjects such as current
hardware and software products, companies, and institutions.
A Spanish version is also available.

With varying interfaces, the dictionary is mirrored by sites
in Turkey, France, Hungary, and the United States. Editor
Denis Howe invites users to submit appropriate definitions.



A compilation of materials from sessions of AMS/MAA Joint
Meetings, symposia, CRUME, and MAA Online; annotated
bibliographies; and publications from the Wisconsin Center
for Education Research, the Learning Research and
Development Center, and AERA Special Interest Groups.

A comprehensive list of Math Education Research Organizations
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      Has anyone run into a case like the student I
      have had who seems unable to do any math that
      has unknowns or variables in it?
                                       - Bonnie Fortini

This question sparked a focused discussion about how to
teach variables to students who hate letters, and what
might be some reasons for their difficulties. Here are
some excerpts:

 "I think math phobia is related to the difficulty of 
  understanding language. Language is much more ambiguous..."

 "As one who suffered from 'the phobia', language is not 
  the barrier! The 'barrier' is the mystery of numbers 
  clouded in memorized rules and proceedures that have 
  no relevance to the student..."

 "'s the context that gives sense to a formula...
  Can we teach 'formulas' and 'variables' in the abstract?"

 "As Marilyn Burns says, 'Algebra is the generalization of 
  arithmetic'... the essence of math education is that it
  must lead to being able to solve math problems in 
  functional, realistic contexts."

 "I think we are missing some key points.  A variable is
  not simply a letter standing for a number... the problem
  is not likely to be 'cognitive' in the sense that there
  are skills or processes missing... Often, a student with 
  moderate anxiety can be helped just by learning that most
  people feel math anxiety - including teachers."

Many participants in this conversation shared classroom
experiences and ideas for using objects and 'real world' 
concepts to help teach students about variables. 

Find replies and a follow-up report on the discussion
thread by searching the numeracy list for "variable
phobia" (just the words, not the quotes):


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