[Edu-sig] a non-rhetorical question

Jay Bloodworth jbloodworth at sc.rr.com
Sun Jul 8 22:35:17 CEST 2007

On Sun, 2007-07-08 at 21:46 +0200, Laura Creighton wrote:
> Do you have many students who are good at geometry and still rotten
> at algebra?  Also what do they say when you ask them 'what don't
> you understand here?'

I wouldn't say rotten, but it's not unusual to have students who do
significantly better in geometry than algebra.  Again, it could just be
a year of brain maturity that makes that so.

"What don't you understand?"  Usually if a kid can answer that they
don't have a problem:

Ex: 2x + 3y + 5x = 7x + 3y

Kid 1:
"Why don't you understand?"
"Where did the 7x come from?"
"From combining like terms.  I added 2x and 5x."
"What are like terms?"
"Terms with the same variables to the same powers.  2x and 5x both have
x to the first power and no other variables."


Kid 2:
"Why don't you understand?"
"I just don't get it."

Not a great example, because most students can do a little better with
like terms than Kid 2.  But the point is that the "don't get it" kids
I'm talking about can't really tell you what they don't get.  They see a
string of symbols on line one and another on line two and claim to see
no connection between them.  And though I can often ask a series of
questions to determine what they don't get and to explain it - "Do you
see where the 3y comes from? Good.  How about the 7x?  Okay, do you see
the 2x and 5x?  etc." - they'll still say they don't get it.

That was probably a longer yet less complete answer than you were
looking for.  Nonetheless, I hope it helps.


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