typodupeerror

## US Students Struggle With Understanding of the 'Equal' Sign1268

Posted by Soulskill
from the confusing-parallel-lines dept.
bickerd--- writes with news of research out of Texas A&M which found that roughly 70% of middle grades students in the US don't fully understand what the 'equal' sign means. Quoting: "'The equal sign is pervasive and fundamentally linked to mathematics from kindergarten through upper-level calculus,' Robert M. Capraro says. 'The idea of symbols that convey relative meaning, such as the equal sign and "less than" and "greater than" signs, is complex and they serve as a precursor to ideas of variables, which also require the same level of abstract thinking.' The problem is students memorize procedures without fully understanding the mathematics, he notes. 'Students who have learned to memorize symbols and who have a limited understanding of the equal sign will tend to solve problems such as 4+3+2=( )+2 by adding the numbers on the left, and placing it in the parentheses, then add those terms and create another equal sign with the new answer,' he explains. 'So the work would look like 4+3+2=(9)+2=11.'"
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## US Students Struggle With Understanding of the 'Equal' Sign

• #### Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

<brad.arnett@notforhir e . org> on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:35AM (#33238242)
That's not what = means. = is ASSIGNMENT. They're looking for ==.

Also, on a serious note, from what I recall of the US school system, frankly, the most surprising thing about this is that the problem isn't worse than reported.
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:2, Funny)

<brad.arnett@notforhir e . org> on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:37AM (#33238280)
Also, apparently I struggle with understanding of the "First Post".

So... frosty piss and all that.
• #### I guess I'm stupid, too. (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:41AM (#33238352)

Because I can't figure out how you are supposed to solve such a problem, and I have a BS in Computer Science.

Let's look at the problem:

4+3+2=( )+2

4+3+2 = 9

( ) + 2 = 2

So we have a false equality 9 = 2

Since this is not true, I can easily see how lots of kids would go through contortions to try and make it true.

But unless this is a trick question, why are the setting up false equalities like this for grade school kids?

• #### 4+3+2=( )+2 (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:42AM (#33238370)

Let's see here.. I'm going to go with:
4+3+2=(21/3*981727612785316256514034236^0)+2

• #### Re:I guess I'm stupid, too. (Score:2, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:43AM (#33238382)
9 = 2 is neither true nor false, it yield an error because 9 is not a variable.
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:43AM (#33238390)

In most of the world we study Mathematics. I didn't realise that there was only one Mathematic studied in the US.

• #### Re:Well, that explains things. (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:44AM (#33238402)

So I'm not being a curmudgeonly old jackass when I think this generation is stupid.

Now, now. Just because these youngsters need pictures of the food on their cash-register buttons in order to do their job doesn't mean they're stupid. :-)

• #### This is obviously liberals' fault (Score:1, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:45AM (#33238424) Homepage Journal

Obviously the US students are now totally confused about what equality means, everything is equal to everything else, your work effort is equal to anybody else's work effort because based on liberal agenda the outcomes are supposed to be equal.

So clearly, women=men, black=white, all humans have equal rights, this inevitably leads to everything else being equal to everything else.

so 11=9, 0=1, Islam=Terrorism, America=Fuck Yeah=One Nation Under God=Obama=God Bless America=And No Place Else=Nuke The Whales=There Is No God=Gay Is Good=Gay Is Bad=Government Is Going To Fix Everything=Large Corporations That Are Monopolies Because Government Made Them Monopolies Are Going To Fix Everything

So you see, these students maybe confused, or maybe they are right and everybody else is stupid for not getting with the times.

Obviously.

• #### Re:This is obviously liberals' fault (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:47AM (#33238470)

Additionally, as you can see, our President wants to KILL SMURFS!

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:48AM (#33238500)

Whoa! You Brits have more than one math?! Did Apple come out with iMath over there? lucky bastards...

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:4, Funny)

<kenshin@NoSpAM.lunarworks.ca> on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:51AM (#33238552) Homepage

For those who don't know, the guide to school in America and England:

America - England

Math - Maths
Science - Sciences
Art - Arts
Gym - Gyms
Lunch - Lunches
Recess - Recesses
Detention - Detentions

• #### Re:I guess I'm stupid, too. (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:56AM (#33238636)

The students are supposed to solve for the number in the parenthesis. Replace the ( ) with an x, then solve for x.

4 + 3 + 2 = x + 2

Since the students aren't familiar with algebra, they're expected to rewrite the LHS in the same form as the RHS.

4 + 3 + 2 = 9 = 7 + 2

Therefore:

7 + 2 = x + 2

So x = 2.

• #### Is it really plural, though? (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @09:56AM (#33238650) Homepage

Do your Barbie dolls say "Maths are hard"?

• #### Re:teachers (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:01AM (#33238746)

Women = time * money ...and as we all know, "time is money":

Time = Money ...and therefore:

Women = Money * Money = (Money)^2 ...and because "Money is the root of all evil":

Money = sqrt(evil) ...therefore:

Women = (sqrt[evil])^2 ...and we are forced to conclude that:

Women = Evil

• #### Re:It should be: 4+3+2=x+2 (Solve for x) (Score:4, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:07AM (#33238866)

My thoughts exactly.

For me, 4 + 3 + 2 = ( ) + 2
=> 4 + 3 + 2 = (empty value) + 2
=> 4 + 3 + 2 = 0 + 2
=> 9 = 2
=> wtf?

• #### Re:I guess I'm stupid, too. (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:07AM (#33238876) Journal

If_only_there_was_a_symbol_for_placing_an_underscore_in_a_blank_space.__Someone_should_get_on_that.

• #### Re:Is it really plural, though? (Score:3, Funny)

<brad.arnett@notforhir e . org> on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:22AM (#33239122)
They do in the south.
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:23AM (#33239150) Homepage
English is logical now? When did this happen?
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:24AM (#33239188)

Reading your post, I got to "ematic" and thought it was some language term for a word fragment that I didn't know, until I realized it WAS the word fragment.

Slashdot reading in the early morning is hard.

• #### Re:It should be: 4+3+2=x+2 (Solve for x) (Score:4, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:26AM (#33239240)
1. Let a and b be equal non-zero quantities
a = b
2. Multiply through by a
a^2 = ab
3. Subtract b^2
a^2 - b^2 = ab - b^2
4. Factor both sides
(a - b)(a + b) = b(a - b)
5. Remove canceling values (a - b)
a + b = b
6. Observing that a = b
b + b = b
7. Combine like terms on the left
2b = b
8. Divide by the non-zero b
2 = 1

???
• #### Re:uhhhh? (Score:2, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:31AM (#33239364) Journal

Hmmm ... I just noted that 6*9 / 6 is, of course, 9. So maybe the true problem is all of them knowing the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the testers didn't get the joke :-)

• #### Re:Texas? (Score:2, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:35AM (#33239500)

The bible comes this close to giving us the square root of 2.

Rev 21:16 -- And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

And this close to giving us pi.

2 Chron 4:2 Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

Oh well.

• #### GCC can't figure it out either (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:37AM (#33239564)

int main()
{
4+3+2=()+2;
return 0;
}

error: expected expression before ')' token

Those idiots forgot to name the function they're calling.

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:2, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:42AM (#33239682)

Yep, obesity is a problem in Europe too, particularly the UK (where I am from).

I have to say that when going to Disney parks in Florida (not an accurate test of averages I admit) there does seem to be a large amount of *very* large people there.

However, I put this down to population density in those areas and the fact that obese people are much more visible than non-obese people. I dare say that large people may obscure the view of one or more small people too which would create the illusion of more large people. Who knows? Who cares?

I don't agree with your comment on Scotland though - heroine is an appetite suppressant.

• #### Re:Well, that explains things. (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:48AM (#33239856)
Yeah, from what I've seen here in DC, playing farmville all day is worth only \$40K max. That's with at least 2 years of FarmVille experience.
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:54AM (#33239958)

Does it matter that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are different countries and are referred to as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the inhabitants being commonly referred to as British)?

I believe it is well established that people from the USA are American and those from the UK are British - can we leave it at that?

Whilst we are at it, when Americans hear what they perceive to be an Australian accent, assume that the person speaking is in fact from the UK. Most Australians are drunk and wear hats with corks hanging from strings.

In return the British will listen out for an American accent with a strange twang and automatically assume the person speaking is from Canada. We will also look out for the hockey stick and racoon skin hat but will be wary of the hat without the stick as that person is likely to be Russian.

• #### Re:It should be: 4+3+2=x+2 (Solve for x) (Score:2, Funny)

<{moc.liamg} {ta} {otyaj001}> on Friday August 13, 2010 @10:55AM (#33239980)

oh! Whoosh for me then!

• #### Re:I guess I'm stupid, too. (Score:4, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:26AM (#33240662)
The important question is how should one feel about 9 = 2 in a more inclusive socioeconomic context? Who are you to judge with your elitist western notions of objective reality? In some cultural contexts 9 = 2 may be a legitimate expression of rejecting repressive colonial monoculturalism. Insensitive clods!
• #### Re:Wrong (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:46AM (#33241018)

While data is a collection of distinct and discrete ... ummm ... things,

I believe the word you are looking for is datum.

• #### What's wrong with Ohioan and Wyomingite? (Score:4, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:51AM (#33241108) Journal

What exactly sounds weird about Ohioan and Wyomingite?

More to the point.. why would those sound any 'weirder' than people from TexaS being TexaN or people from Puerto RicO being Puerto RicAn, while people from Massachusetts aren't Massachusettan but Massachusettsan?

Not to mention Connecticuter.. cuter? Surely for pronunciation that should have been Connecticutter?

At least Ohioan makes it more clear it's somebody from Ohio than New Mexican does for somebody from New Mexico.. that should have been New Mexicoan as well.

Then again, I'm from The Netherlands, or Holland if you prefer, but you English-speaking folk insist on calling us Dutch.. so maybe I'm just used to these sorts of shenanigans ;)

• #### Re:Well, that explains things. (Score:1, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:54AM (#33241154)

Shouldn't that be "generation ()+1"?

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @11:58AM (#33241226)

That depends on the meaning of *is*.

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:5, Funny)

<nomadicworld@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday August 13, 2010 @12:07PM (#33241414) Homepage
Most people just call them all British.

Or pasty white crumpet monkeys.
• #### Null Pointer Exception (Score:5, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:03PM (#33242262)
So they don't understand NULL. That's acceptable. 70% of people saw the equation had a memory leak and carried data over into the null that just happened to be the last equation they saw. That happens all the time to a computer program that's not properly debugged. I'm more worried about the 30% of people who saw null and created X. Who are they to just randomly initialize variables to catch an exception that they didn't know was going to come there way any time soon.
• #### Re:What's wrong with Ohioan and Wyomingite? (Score:2, Funny)

by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2010 @01:20PM (#33242544)

Then again, I'm from The Netherlands, or Holland if you prefer, but you English-speaking folk insist on calling us Dutch

Hang on. The Dutch I know are always bitching about being called 'Holland' because that's just the name of a region in the Netherlands not the whole of it.

You mean to tell me that now, when I've finally got the hand of that, Holland is now fine, but 'Dutch' is wrong? What other word for Dutch is there?

You guys are just making this up as you go along.

• #### Re:Wrong (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:12PM (#33244334)

We're #1! We're #1!

• #### Re:It should be: 4+3+2=x+2 (Solve for x) (Score:3, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @03:33PM (#33244630) Homepage

A circle? Oh thats soooo easy! You just fill it in using a #2 pencil.

• #### Re:Well, that explains things. (Score:2, Funny)

on Friday August 13, 2010 @04:11PM (#33245154) Journal

I drank WHAT?
Socrates, (399BC)

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