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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 schoolteaching or … Continue reading
Posted in mathematical misunderstandings
Tagged algebra, mathematical misunderstandings
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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
Posted in derivative, gradient, mathematical misunderstandings
Tagged derivative, gradient, mathematical misunderstandings
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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
Posted in case, mathematical misunderstandings, units
Tagged case, mathematical misunderstandings, units
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Errors in finding the gradient of a graph
Consider the simple question shown below: This question is generally well answered, but when students make a mistake, what do they do wrong?
BODMAS, BIDMAS, BEDMAS
More on simple arithmetic skills that people don’t always understand as well as they think they do, leading to difficulties at a later stage. In the OU Science Faculty we use the mnemonic BEDMAS (others use BODMAS or BIDMAS) to … Continue reading
Problems with fractions
I’ve been aware for some time that Open University science students have problems with fractions (and many things that express themselves as difficulties in other areas e.g. working out units, simplifying algebraic expressions, have their origins in poor understanding of the … Continue reading