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Topic: Re[2]: Real World Problems
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Michelle Manes

Posts: 64
Registered: 12/3/04
Re[2]: Real World Problems
Posted: Jun 14, 1995 5:34 PM
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Subject: Re: Real World Problems
From: (Eileen Abrahamson) at internet
Date: 6/14/95 2:49 PM

>>I don't see why teachers must create their own problems. The idea of
>>on-line depository of interesting math word problems sounds like an
>>excellent idea. I wonder if there is anything out there now. If not,
>>this may be an interesting grant idea for someone.

>The State Department of Ed. in Minnesota has created a CD ROM Midi-Bank of
>problems that can be used for assessment. It is probably a good beginning.

EDC (where I work) developed a CD-ROM called MathFinder.
It contains problems (and sometimes whole curricula,
I think) as a database. Each problem set is tagged for
grade level, content, and addressing various NCTM standards.
You can search on any combination of criteria, look at the
results of your search, and print any of the problem sets.

1. Requires CD-ROM technology, which not many schools have.
2. Printing is *very* slow. The problem sets are scanned images
rather than text files, so the display (you can choose the quality
of the display, lower=faster) and printing suffer.

MathFinder is available for both Mac and Windows. It is
published by the Learning Team. Their phone number is

As for on-line resources, I think I remember someplace where
there were lesson plans and such. Perhaps one of the FreeNets?

In any case, neither of these address the original issue of
"real world problems." (I am about to say something controversial.)
I think that the whole push towards applications and real-world
(they are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same)
is a bit dangerous. There's nothing wrong with learning
applications, but are problems about physics really any more
"real world" than problems about prime numbers?

For a problem to be "real world," it would have to be real
in *your students'* world, which would make it impossible to
share. Steve Means posted a wonderful example of how he
incorporates things that are real to his students into his
classroom. But these are not "problems." They are long,
involved projects that last at least a year, and they would
not translate to my class. (Though the *idea* of the
projects would.)

My feeling is that most students' daily lives are not rich with
opportunities for deep mathematical study. I, personally,
would have a lot of trouble with Steve's assignment. My
hobbies change every couple of years (so finding something I have
loved and will continue to love is hard enough), and they
don't always run towards the mathematical. (e.g. Reading fiction:
Would I average the pages I read? The number of words on
a page? In any case the mathematics is not that interesting.)

The "real world" problems in text books too often turn into
data collection and body parts math. Neither of these is
very deep or intellectually stimulating. I'm all in favor
of exchanging "interesting problems," but I have trouble
with "real world problems."

Michelle Manes
Education Development Center, Inc.

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