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Newsletter: Math Forum Internet News No. 2.20 (May 19)
Posted:
May 18, 1997 11:04 AM


19 May 1997 Vol.2, No.20
THE MATH FORUM INTERNET NEWS
Dictionary of Computing  Research in MathEd  Variable Phobia
THE FREE ONLINE DICTIONARY OF COMPUTING (FOLDOC)
http://wombat.doc.ic.ac.uk/
A searchable dictionary with over 10,000 definitions for:
 acronyms, jargon, programming languages, tools  architectures, operating systems, networking, theory  telecoms, institutions, companies, projects, products  history, crossreferences, bibliography...
and a cross section of MATHEMATICS TOPICS, from abscissa and Boolean algebra to wavelet and Zermelo set theory.
http://wombat.doc.ic.ac.uk/foldoc/contents/mathematics.html
The Dictionary of Computing aims to provide a onestop source of information about all computing terms. It includes crossreferences to other entries and to related resources elsewhere on the Internet, and bibliographical references to paper publications. It currently lacks many entries that can be found in paper computing dictionaries but contains encyclopedialike entries on subjects such as current hardware and software products, companies, and institutions. A Spanish version is also available.
With varying interfaces, the dictionary is mirrored by sites in Turkey, France, Hungary, and the United States. Editor Denis Howe invites users to submit appropriate definitions.
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RESEARCH IN MATH EDUCATION
http://forum.swarthmore.edu/mathed/mathed.research.html
A compilation of materials from sessions of AMS/MAA Joint Meetings, symposia, CRUME, and MAA Online; annotated bibliographies; and publications from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, the Learning Research and Development Center, and AERA Special Interest Groups.
A comprehensive list of Math Education Research Organizations and Journals is also provided:
http://forum.swarthmore.edu/mathed/mathed.research.orgs.html
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Research in Math Education is part of the Math Forum's collection of resources for Mathematics Education:
http://forum.swarthmore.edu/mathed/index.html
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A DISCUSSION FROM THE NUMERACY LIST: "VARIABLE PHOBIA"
http://forum.swarthmore.edu/epigone/numeracy/geefleefroi
Has anyone run into a case like the student I have had who seems unable to do any math that has unknowns or variables in it?  Bonnie Fortini
This question sparked a focused discussion about how to teach variables to students who hate letters, and what might be some reasons for their difficulties. Here are some excerpts:
"I think math phobia is related to the difficulty of understanding language. Language is much more ambiguous..."
"As one who suffered from 'the phobia', language is not the barrier! The 'barrier' is the mystery of numbers clouded in memorized rules and procedures that have no relevance to the student..."
"...it's the context that gives sense to a formula... Can we teach 'formulas' and 'variables' in the abstract?"
"As Marilyn Burns says, 'Algebra is the generalization of arithmetic'... the essence of math education is that it must lead to being able to solve math problems in functional, realistic contexts."
"I think we are missing some key points. A variable is not simply a letter standing for a number... the problem is not likely to be 'cognitive' in the sense that there are skills or processes missing... Often, a student with moderate anxiety can be helped just by learning that most people feel math anxiety  including teachers."
Many participants in this conversation shared classroom experiences and ideas for using objects and 'real world' concepts to help teach students about variables.
Find replies and a followup report on the discussion thread by searching the numeracy list for "variable phobia" (just the words, not the quotes):
http://forum.swarthmore.edu/epiquery/numeracy
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The Math Forum ** 19 May 1997
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