# Category Archives: mathematical misunderstandings

## Problems with trigonometry or algebra?

Ask a university teacher of science about their new students’ mathematical difficulties and the chances are you’ll be told that students can’t rearrange equations. They may go on to tell you that this is the fault of poor school-teaching or … Continue reading

## Is the difficulty calculus or negative numbers?

As you’ll have realised, I’m currently analysing responses to questions on calculus. Maths for Science teaches just very basic differentiation and the position of the chapter on differentiation will be different in the revised edition of the course. In the new … Continue reading

## Estimating the gradient of curves – variants behaving differently

The screenshots below show two variants of the same question. I should start by emphasising that the question is only used formatively – it’s on the Maths for Science Practice Assignment. The two variants behave very differently and the reason … Continue reading

## Function or derivative?

The common student error in the question below is somewhat predictable – but I’m not sure why the students make the error that they do. Whilst 60.4% of responses are entirely correct, 21.7% select the three options that are actually the places where … Continue reading

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## Unit conversions

As previously discussed, students aren’t great at giving correct units with their answers. However they have real probems with unit conversions! The unit conversion shown on the left  is exceptionally badly answered, and a lot of students give up without even … Continue reading

## More errors in finding the gradient of a graph

Working yesterday on the chapter on Graphs and Gradient for the new edition of Maths for Science, I remembered the other student error that I have seen in iCMA questions. When asked to find the gradient of a graph like … Continue reading

## The case of units and variables

I’ve talked about students’ difficulties with units before – on 10th and 15th March 2011. In addition to the deeper problems that students encounter, they frequently give the incorrect case when writing abbreviations for units. When they write Kg instead … Continue reading