Symbols and what’s “so much easier!”

Posted on November 5, 2014


We sent in a little blog post for the college blog from the Center For Academic Success, about “7 ways to Tank your Grades!”   — yes, a bit of a spoof.  Number four was “Take Thanksgiving **Week,** — we have classes through Wednesday, even though the nearby Mother U has the whole week off.

Today a student came in whom I hadn’t seen in… “oh, it was my birthday, so I thought I’d take a few days off.”

You’ll find my expression next to “baleful” in the dictionary… but people should know that we care enough to give “the look.”

So he’s catching up on those percentages and his friend has the card I made with her yesterday.   It’s the “%/100 = is(part)/of(whole) ”   that we practiced (with *lots* of ‘number sense’ inserted into the dialogue, per ‘so if it’s less than 50% it should be less than half of that,” with estimations, etc. etc. — otherwise this is another trick that is worthy of “nix the tricks“).

I eavesdropped enough to add in a little of the number sense part and encourage, because yes, this was a “teach it and you really know it!” moment.   They exclaimed that “my way” was *so much easier* than the book… which they proceeded to show me.

I expected the book to have used the “translation” method, per “of means times, is means equals…”

Nope.   It was   p/100 = (I can’t remember this) or   p/100 = “is” / “of”   OR  p/100 = part/whole.

Huh???   Seemed like Same as Mine.   I was compelled to ask them what was easier.   The big one:   the fact that I had put the % sign instead of P.     Also, my version was one proportion; one clump of symbols.   (I suspect that might not be universally better.)

As I told them, I wouldn’t have thought the two to be different (though I also simply don’t stick in a P where a more meaningful symbol would do)… but these are the subtleties that make the difference between guessing and knowing.   Another “student teaches teacher” day…

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