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Topic: Word Problems-a view from a student
Replies: 19   Last Post: Dec 16, 1995 5:38 PM

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Marc Vidulich

Posts: 51
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Word Problems-a view from a student
Posted: Dec 6, 1995 7:18 PM
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On Dec.4 Lou Talman wrote:

>My own experience in having students write journals in
>college mathematics courses at the freshman/sophomore level
>suggests that there is a high correlation between verbal
>strength and the ability to succeed at mathematics. We
>probably should not be surprised to find that students who
>solve word problems well also handle semantics well; after
>all, the troublesome part of most word problems for most
>students is the essentially *semantic* transformation from
>natural language to formal language.

I agree that MOST students who are good translating the English language
to math language are fairly good in their verbal skills. I also agree with
the person who said there are some great mathematicians who are lousy
verbally, though I don't think this group is very large.
I'm just not sure why medium to advanced level word problems (I'm
assuming these are in Algebra I and beyond) are THAT important to anyone
past the age of, say, 14, unless, of course, a person is good at it, likes
it or plans to take more math. Does the normal, non-mathematical person
need to know this? I'm not convinced they do. People have strengths and
weaknesses that seem to have shown themselves by the time we reach high
school age (many times before h.s.). Why force difficult algebraic
concepts and skills upon a person who has little aptitude for them and very
little love of them? A very distinguished chef once told me that anyone
can learn to cook but everyone can't learn to be a master chef.
If it's imperative that EVERY student master these then maybe Saxon's
program is fine (for those of average and below ability). Or maybe we cut
out some of the curriculum so that a teacher may spend considerable time
helping students to learn to articulate, verbalize, problem-solve, work
cooperatively with others, and discover methods that make sense to them. In
my opinion this would be a more valuable use of time than how to simplify:
[(x + 2)/(x - 3)] + [(x - 1)/(x - 4)
By the way, a student-teacher ratio less than 30:1 would be helpful.

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