Stats and logic accessibility

Posted on September 3, 2022


I was helping a person in Stats 107. They have to answer assorted questions about sets and subsets. Later on there will be ridiculously complicated logic questions.

They will learn a pretty nifty strategy for setting up a table and working through them.

I was thinking that it’s really helpful to also understand that okay, maybe some people can “just figure that stuff out” — and/but most of them can BECAUSE THEY DO IT A LOT. But that math doesn’t have to be a Thing You Get Right To The Answer about. (Then there’s inviting them, once they’ve figured out a way to puzzle through to the solution… to look back and think about connections and look for cooler things?)

… because I Helped Beyond My Level a lot this week, which meant I was deriving those strategies.

It made me wonder if the folks who think math’s a thing you can or can’t do — who can do it — recognize that for most of ’em it’s not the math they learned, but how to frame a problem so it didn’t break their working memory. “Clearing fractions” is a classic example. If you KNOW that “this looks impossible, but there will be a thing I can do!” then 1/3x + x+1/3 = whatever…. doesn’t have to make you ill. I had a person sent to me b/c they got oh, 1/ 10 problems right solvign equations and … basically they dropped a sign here and there and didn’t know how to clear fractions, and left half an hour later in a much better place.

An example: learning all those unit circle numbers in trig. When I suggested “learn the 45’s first, b/c they’re split even and the coordinates are the same…” — and made the connection to the triangles (and yes, had to find a picture because I can’t rotate triangles well in my head to show that the unit triangle was a 30-60-90 and it was all Pythagorean stuff). The other two — they’re both 30-60-90 triangles, just switched.

Question: I love the connection between addition and subtraction facts, and how that lends itself to “the sum of 2 numbers is 60 and one is twice as big as the other” and how you can use “60 – x” and yes, the minus x is weird…but you can do it. However, I don’t know if this is an example of a connection that People Who Already Know It LOVE TO DISCOVER!!!! while the rest of the world goes, “oh, whatever.”

So! I’m going to rebuild that lesson and see…

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