“real life application” abuse

Posted on April 13, 2016

2


So the students are supposed to apply this algebra stuff to real life.

THey timed water dripping out of a bottle.  At X seconds, what’s the height of the water in the bottle?

Data was gathered. It was entered into the calculator.

THey were asked “Do you think it’s linear or quadratic”  and then, “what’s the parabola of best fit?”

Now, this student knew that those parabola things go down and come back up.   She also knows that water doesn’t, of its own volition, go back into a bottle.

Well, no, for now, you’re not supposed to pay attention to common sense.

Of course, the parabola of best fit was full of exotic decimals, which they were then expected to do the standard issue complex calculations on.

Do they really, honestly, expect students to think other than this is simply a form of torture?   There’s no explanation or even a hint as to why a quadratic equation is the “best fit.”

It’s still, *probably,* better than the alternative for most people… but … this particular exercise is  still “figure out which weird stuff to punch into a calculator and pray that it’s right.”   Just don’t confuse that with… math.

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