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Topic: algorithms v. understanding the concept
Replies: 1   Last Post: Aug 16, 1995 10:16 AM

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Murphy Waggoner

Posts: 52
Registered: 12/6/04
algorithms v. understanding the concept
Posted: Aug 15, 1995 4:26 AM
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I taught mathematics to pre-service teachers this summer and the mean age
of the student in my class was 28. These students had trouble
differentiating between the algorithm and the meaning of a computation.
For example, I gave them several fraction addtion problems with the same
error pattern where they had to reproduce the error pattern and then give
the correct answers. The next question was "How would you explain to a
student the reasoning behind the correct answer?" Five of the six students
simply described the algorithm for addition of fractions. The other
student used fraction bars to describe the process.

If these (older) students have trouble differentiating between an algorithm
and the meaning of the operation, how do we expect grade school students to
make this distinction?

Murphy

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Murphy Waggoner
Department of Mathematics
Simpson College
701 North C Street
Indianola, IA 50125
waggoner@storm.simpson.edu
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