Math reading follies, Wednesday edition

So yesterday’s GE 103 lab assignment was basically just an extended group exercise on using the Adjusted Winner Procedure. The students were in pairs to simulate a business partnership that was splitting up. The problem said:

You need to divide up the following assets between the two of you: your business’ web site, the company car, the business’ computers, the business’ logo, and the office space you rented for your business’ operation. Use the Adjusted Winner Procedure to divide up these assets. Remember that you must begin by distributing 100 points among these five items…

First question: How many items are there to divide up? Hint: It SAYS SO EXPLICITLY IN THE LAST SENTENCE.

Guess what the most frequent mistake was on this problem? It wasn’t arithmetic or even algebra: it was the ability to recognize that there were five items being divided. Some teams put down four items to divide (they left off the office space). One team somehow invented a new item and put down six things. Never mind that the lab handout lists the five items and goes on to say that there are five items to distribute points across. How do you mess that up? It’s just inexplicable.

I have said it before, and will continue to say, that the biggest obstacle to learning mathematics is reading and writing. If you can’t even process basic verbal information in a problem, no amount of mathematical skill is going to help you solve it.

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One response to “Math reading follies, Wednesday edition

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