A student has a english problem, should he get another chance and have another chance?

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    $\begingroup$ This is pretty vague. Stackexchange isn't a forum for open-ended debate, it's a place to ask questions that can actually be answered. $\endgroup$
    – user507
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ Is there a reason the student didn’t ask for clarification during the test? In my classes i usually stress that students should at least ask me during the exam if there’s something they don’t understand. frequently i tell the students i can’t fairly answer their question but i also tell them to not give up and ask again if there are other questions. generally i have pretty good success because the students do see i will help them if their question reveals an impediment to their showing mastery when they get hung up on something not really germane to the mathematics. $\endgroup$
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Is the student's first language English? $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 6:48
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    $\begingroup$ What word?????? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @A.Ellett Well I do not know the reason but does it make a great difference? $\endgroup$
    – Selwyn Liu
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 2:40

2 Answers 2


You'll probably get a better answer after the question is closed, edited for clarity, and reopened.

I have had multiple experiences of this for students for whom English is not their first language. "What is 'ferris wheel'"? Taking a trigonometry test and we were using the ferris wheel in a test question. ('We', but I did not author the test. I was just proctoring). No, I don't expect a student to know what a ferris wheel is, and in fact, schools in mt area of the US are trying to do a better job of cultural awareness. I proceeded to explain what this ride was, showed him a picture of one, and how it worked.

Similar for a test question regarding probability where the teacher uses playing cards, the standard 52 card deck. When I was your age (in the late 1970's), there were no computers, no video games. Cards were ubiquitous. English language aside, students would have a near 100% chance of knowing what any reference to a card deck meant. Now, such an assumption would be wrong, and it's on the teacher to introduce the deck of cards as if no one had ever played with it.

If the student didn't understand a math vocabulary word, and it's not language-related, I wouldn't adjust the grade. It's one test/quiz of many.

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    $\begingroup$ Having fielded the "what is a ferris wheel" problem myself, I now insert a captioned image of one anytime I need it. $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 14:04

Pretty open-ended questions since there aren't any specifics, so I'll give my scenarios:

I wouldn't allow another chance if it was mathematically-related word that would have been seen in a previous year. For example a high school student asking what a "numerator" is, or a "sum", or a "factor" etc. (I don't think it's unfair to set a standard of require knowledge based on prerequisite courses)

I might allow another chance if most students couldn't answer it, and the question couldn't be understood contextually. For example, I could make up words but I don't think they effect the math, like this: "A qwert has 10 werts and each wert has 5 erts. If I have 3 qwerts, how many erts do I have?" Although those are made-up words, I think the question could be done regardless. (In fact, since I use metric, this is how I usually think of imperial units words)

Could we see the question?

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    $\begingroup$ a surprising number of even high school freshmen and sophomores lack a basic understanding of mathematical vocabulary. and yet i’ve also had to teach and reteach numerator and denominator to juniors and seniors when i’ve taught in public high schools. many factors play into their lack of basic vocabulary. if the vocabulary is going to be essential to the subject, i always define the terms and let the students know that they need to know this vocabulary on exams, tests and quizzes. $\endgroup$
    – A.Ellett
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ Fyi, at least one other user appears to think similarly in an old post. Incidentally in your example about qwerts and werts, the only term I'd have found it possibly useful to inquire into would be "has/have", though given how "reserved word" and irreducible it feels there might be nothing to be done. (I guess I'd try "each qwert is associated to 10 weeks" but that feels like either a giveaway or a cure worse than the original disease.) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ The scenario also reminds me and looks isomorphic to various ones where a sentence consists purely of intrinsically undefinable terms connected by a highly abstract concept, like "each point is incident on some line" or "one plus one equals two", where meaningless labels can be replaced to result in isomorphic statements like "each coffee mug lies on some table" or "foo plus foo is bar" (there is a famous quote by Hilbert on this). $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Vandermonde: I was thinking about something I used to do, which I was pretty sure I'd written about here and wondering whether I should look it up, but decided not to because it's not really the same situation being asked about here (unless the word is a math vocabulary word), but then I followed your link for "one other user" and saw what I had written. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 14:30

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