10 year old boys are right: word problems are evil!

A couple of years ago, I stopped trying to get my older son to do word problems. He just didn’t get them. Plus, they often required really convoluted thinking to figure out. I decided that once he knew algebra and knew how to create equations, we’d give them another try. Now he’s in algebra and we’re starting to re-introduce them. Knowing how to create an equation definitely makes it much easier to do word problems.

New research seems to back up my decision to drop word problems. Researchers have conducted experiments which showed that students who were taught the abstract concepts underlying math problems, without real world examples were better able to apply what they learned than those who were taught using real world examples.

So, I guess all the kids who have ever looked at a problem about two trains leaving the station, traveling in opposite directions and said, “this is dumb!” might be right.

HT: Joanne Jacobs

2 thoughts on “10 year old boys are right: word problems are evil!

  1. Gosh, but I always loved those train problems myself. Really. They were like puzzles.

    I think the research needs to be clearer. It is true that you cannot teach a concept with a word problem. You need the abstract to teach the concept. But the word problem can show you how the concept applies to real life. In other words, the schools (as is often the case) put the cart before the horse. First, you need concepts. Then you need applications.

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