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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
Word Problems-a view from a student
Posted: Dec 3, 1995 7:10 AM
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Recently I wrote one of my ex-students, a freshman at USC. Lou Talman had
responded to Ron Ward (I think) and had mentioned a term I use all the time
(bag o' tricks) in my class and I knew she would think it was funny.
Anyway, I included some of the text of the letter and here is her response
to the discussion about word problems:

"Okay, my little non-big worded brain didn't quite get the jist of what
RON was talking about, but I'll just tell you what I think about word
problems. I absolutely love them. Most kids hate them, because they
like it all spelled out for them what's going on and how to go about
solving them. Word problems make you think about what's happening, and
then decide from there how you're going to approach the problem. I look
at one, and if a particular stategy from class or from what I know makes
sense, then I will try that way. If not, sometimes I will guess and
check. Sometimes I have no idea what I'm doing on them, but when I sit
down and think mathmatically about how the numbers fit together, I can
figure out what its asking. As for teaching types of strategies, I think
that every kid needs a basis for drawing ideas on how to solve a
problem. I do not, however, think that word problems should be put into
certain types, nor do I think that kids should not have leeway to solve
the problem however it makes sense to them. Plus, if a teacher relys too
heavily on teaching certain general ways to solve these problems, the
kids are going to stop thinking through the problems, which is the
purpose of them, and start "plugging in" different taught ways, like
guess and check, much like you would plug and chug into a normal boring
I never had much trouble with word problems, because I guess from
an early stage I knew that I needed to interpret the english on the page
into a mathematical language that I knew how to solve. That's all word
problems really are, I think. As for different methods and stuff, I
really don't know what I did. I think I went more on intuition that
drawing from a list of pre-determined ways to go about the problems."

Just for information: this student scored a 36 on the math part of the ACT
and was in the low 700s on the SAT; ranked #3 in a class of 570 at a fairly
academic public school; scored a 5 on the A.P. Math Exam (AB test); and is
THE best student, both in creativity and in quality of work, I've ever had
in 15 years of teaching.

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**** 8 Loreto View, Kilkenny, Ireland ****
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**** phone: 056-65852 ****
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