
Re: Word Problemsa view from a student
Posted:
Dec 6, 1995 7:18 PM


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, nonmathematical 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, problemsolve, 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 studentteacher ratio less than 30:1 would be helpful.
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