The difference between you and me…

Posted on October 30, 2014


This is inspired by a teacher frustrated that her Alg.2 students tripped over x – .25x.

I remember being one of those students.   I looked at that problem and it made. no. sense.

This was one of many, many times though that had I the too common mindset, I’d have gone down a “math makes no sense to me.  See??? Here’s an example…. SEE????”  … and should it be no surprise that the success rate is low when starting from that framework?

However, since I have an ego the size of Montana (not to be confused with Rhode Island, the other State Used As A Measurement Unit) I looked at it and asked myself, “what do I know about what ‘x’ means… hmmm… it’s the same as 1x… oh… and if it were 1x – 5x I would just subtract [ I didn’t  consciously think, but I”m also pretty sure I noticed that  never ever ever before had ‘they’ stuck decimals in there, and rather often when they never, ever, ever do something there’s some mystical mathematical reason ]… and **cool beans**   I … well, at some point I processed that “oh, you have a whole x and you’re taking part of one whole x away, so you’ll have another part of the x left.”

And since that got me a cool answer that worked, I got to feed that ego so it got as big as Alaska… even though my actual brain wasn’t any bigger than the student beside me strangling in self-doubt and anxiety.  (And if that student had, years previously, gone the route of “figure out what looks right and manipulate the symbols accordingly,”  s/he would not have a good path to plow…)

The thing to remember when teaching that stuff is that I’ve seen all those assorted combinations but if students have only had to use whole x’s   then just tossing in decimal x’s may be a jolt.

Must remember this when the App of Doom snarls at me, though fact is that Android and Java are not as well groomed and well charted as math books — especially the math books of *my* life, where they usually tossed in one Weird Thing To Trip You at a time.   One of the cool things about that Java teacher was that he usually anticipated the places where things were combined in a different way so they didn’t look the same…

And now back to said App b/c I figured out inheritance for my line…

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