Friday, May 30, 2008

You were right..

....word problems did suck in math class. Some smarty farty education researchers just published an article that compared kids who learned using "real-world" story problems (because many of us have had to figure out when the train from St. Louis heading east will pass a train from New York headed west) versus kids who learned straight abstract math.

In an absolutely unsurprising result, the kids who learned abstract math did a lot better at retaining and using math skills.

As a dyed-in-the-wool math geek, this makes total sense. The whole beauty of math is that is removes all the irrelevant information from a problem and lets you solve for exactly what matters. More importantly, if you know how it works abstractly, then you can easily apply it to other problems.

If you learn math through specific examples, you never see the generality of it, and you can never solve anything BUT problems involving passing trains.

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