In article <199410031846.OAA18925@oak.cc.swarthmore.edu>, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> The problem with doing baseball or barbie questions is that I think > students really do just want to "strip away the fluff". Kids aren't > oblivious; if you present a math problem to them using baseball just to > catch their interest, they will catch on quickly, and merely strip off the > context. If, on the other hand, you give them some sort of real life task > to complete, that is interesting to them, and that involves the math that > you wish to teach, the interest being addressed cannot be seen as fluff.
I think Katie is exactly right. Placing the numbers within a context of Barbie dolls or baseball does not increase interest directly. The student still wants to get the problem done as soon as possible and get on to the next one, so he/she rips the numbers out of the context and applies the formulas they know are needed to solve the problem. Little additional thinking is involved unless the students are applying their knowledge of mathematics to a context THEMSELVES. That is why Katie's idea about measuring a baseball field to do the computing or doing something hands-on in class can create more interest. Studetns know that the words are there to complicate the problem: how hard would the problem be if it were written in numerical form on a page with 40 others? And they've learned to avoid the confusion the fluff can create. Using context can allow the students to make one more step in their understanding of a concept, IF it's done in an effective way.