Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Word Problems

I was going to just rant on Twitter about this, but man, I have been neglecting this blog and need to get my rant on here, so here we go.

A common complaint I've heard regarding math and the learning thereof is the existence of word problems. Instead of "5*12+3" you'd get "You need five apples for twelve people, but you just know your cat is going to eat at least three of them. How many apples do you need?" A REALLY simple example not using complex math, but that's the idea. Not sure what's up with that cat, though.

I appreciate word problems due to their providing a real world scenario and thus a reason WHY you would need to know the formulas they're teaching. There are math formulas I was taught in high school that I cannot recall now, but i suspect I would if they had bothered to give a real world example of what they were for.

I recall a class where these formulas would come up and I had no idea what the purpose of them was, and it seemed like I could never get a straight answer on the subject. Either they assumed my feeble brain couldn't handle it, or I guess those formulas just had no purpose. That alone I found frustrating, much like the rest of high school where I'd question "why do we need to know this".

The thing is, I like math. It's incredibly useful and I like coming up with formulas for things. I suspect I'm not alone in this, and wonder how many math students would do better if more teachers would take the time to explain what the real world use for what they're learning is.

Actually, I think that applies to almost every class. Tell someone why they should care, and maybe they will.