Questions tagged [mathematical-pedagogy]

for questions on general considerations and problems of teaching mathematics, i.e., issues specific to teaching mathematics yet relevant to various contexts and courses.

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75 votes
6 answers
7k views

Issues with "equals", where does this come from and how do I combat it?

An issue I see with students a lot is abuse of the equals sign. For example, one problem asked "what is the degree of the polynomial: $\text{polynomial}$?", and I got answers like "$\text{polynomial}=...
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72 votes
11 answers
10k views

Whence the "everything is linear" phenomenon, and what can we do about it?

$$ \color{red}{(a+b)^2 = a^2+b^2}$$ $$ \color{red}{\sqrt{x^4+y^4} = x^2+y^2} $$ $$ \color{red}{e^{t^2+C} = e^{t^2}+e^C}$$ I've observed this phenomenon -- wherein, implicitly, students say, "...
42 votes
26 answers
11k views

Good, simple examples of induction?

Many examples of induction are silly, in that there are more natural methods available. Could you please post examples of induction, where it is required, and which are simple enough as examples in a ...
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32 votes
14 answers
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Revisiting topics from previous courses [closed]

I teach calculus to students who have almost all taken calculus before. (Primarily first-year college students who took calculus in high school but didn't perform well enough to skip the course.) ...
25 votes
9 answers
2k views

How can mathematics educators encourage innovation and creativity?

Almost by definition, innovation requires that things be done differently than established custom has it, and comes from the young more often than from the old. In a field as old and established as ...
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18 votes
12 answers
2k views

Mathematical problems for preschoolers

What are some mathematical problems that are feasible for preschool children to stimulate their intellectual development? There are multiple natural laws that are not apparent to them, for example: ...
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15 votes
4 answers
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When should I say "nothing is as it seems"?

"Intuition" is the best friend and worse enemy of mathematicians! Sometimes using intuitive arguments could be very helpful to understand the nature of a phenomenon. Many of the deepest true ...
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20 votes
2 answers
3k views

Example "bad proofs"?

As a sidetrack in this question it came up that it is important to have students read texts (in particular proofs) critically. As examples it is nice to have correct proofs at hand (presumably in the ...
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49 votes
3 answers
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How do blind people learn mathematics?

I am interested in how blind people learn mathematics at any level, but particularly before college. Math is often taught using a lot of visualization; how does this work with blind people? My ...
24 votes
7 answers
5k views

When should we first teach variables in school math? And how?

From a pedagogical point of view, when is the "right" moment to introduce letters and variables to school children? Let's say we taught arithmetic, the four operations, did computation exercises, or ...
22 votes
4 answers
2k views

Lesson plan to self-teach real analysis to student with comp-sci background

For my background, I'm a software engineer currently studying for his master's degree in information security. But when that's all done, I plan on going back to mathematics to keep me busy. But with ...
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9 votes
3 answers
531 views

How many problems do we have to do as undergraduate mathematicians in order to learn a subject?

I'm wondering how many problems are needed in order to learn a subject, let's say Calculus of Several Variables. We know that the professors often assign us a list of problems to solve as homework, ...
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39 votes
2 answers
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What does math education research know about difficulty vs. effectiveness?

I've asked basically the same question previously on on math.SE, then cogsci.SE without much response, surely here is the place to ask this. As anecdotal evidence is plentiful, but unfortunately ...
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36 votes
7 answers
5k views

A Lexicon of Math Mistakes

Neil Postman wrote an interesting (and freely available) article called "The Educationist as Painkiller." I highly recommend you read the article for your own enjoyment and as a background to this ...
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35 votes
23 answers
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Imbuing a six year old with a sense of mathematical wonder

My six year old started school a few months back and he's loving it. This first year is more about social skills than anything academic and I like that approach. But we're spending some time at home ...
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20 votes
6 answers
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Is there a good way to explain determinants in an elementary linear algebra class?

Many colleges offer an an elementary linear algebra class for sophomore math, science, and economics majors. Such a class typically covers a chapter on determinants, including the following aspects: ...
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16 votes
5 answers
1k views

Is Peer Instruction suited to mathematics classroom?

Peer Instruction is a method developed by Eric Mazur in Harvard, designed with a student-centered approach in mind. In a nutshell, the core of the method is that when presented with a problem, ...
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13 votes
3 answers
1k views

Moving From Rote Learning To Creative Thinking

My mathematics education was essentially rote, you learned the formulas and applied them almost algorithmically to the problems you were presented with; the teacher dictated a method and you followed ...
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11 votes
3 answers
666 views

How to teach a student algebra who misses too much previous knowledge?

I am now tutoring a student in Grade 9, who falls behind in math study. He lacks the basic understanding of operations and inverse operations, and have trouble dealing with negative numbers and ...
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5 votes
1 answer
560 views

Propositional and predicate logic, with quantifiers: Is there any research when it is ideal to explicitly teach in mathematics education?

In terms of helping students to understand propositional and predicate logic, with quantifiers, is there any research regarding when it is most advantageous for students studying mathematics, to first ...
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93 votes
18 answers
18k views

Unique candidate that fails

In the comments to David Speyer's answer here, he points out that "the distinction between 'if there is a formula, it is this one' and 'this formula works' is subtle." Does anyone have any simple, ...
44 votes
9 answers
3k views

Knowing mathematics does not translate to knowing to teach mathematics. Why?

Many brilliant mathematicians seem to make average or even poor classroom teachers. Is this an accurate assessment? Has there been any research to explain the phenomena? What is the difference ...
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34 votes
15 answers
8k views

Justifications for: Why learn mathematics?

I wonder how you teachers walk the line between justifying mathematics because of its many—and sometimes surprising—applications, and justifying it as the study of one of the great ...
28 votes
6 answers
882 views

How can we help students who are very anxious about math?

In many parts of the world, the majority of the population is uncomfortable with math. In a few countries this is not the case. We would do well to change our education systems to promote a healthier ...
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26 votes
2 answers
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What methods successfully identify and eliminate severe math anxiety?

What methods are effective in identifying and eliminating severe math anxiety, this most terrible and unfortunate part of modern mathematics education? This question is not about ordinary math anxiety ...
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22 votes
2 answers
1k views

Is Knuth's suggestion on teaching calculus a good idea?

Note: I myself am not a math educator, though I plan to be one someday. In this letter, Donald Knuth suggests an alternate way of teaching calculus, based on big-O (introduced via a related big-A ...
17 votes
5 answers
10k views

Good examples of proof by contradiction?

In later courses on automata theory, many students just seem incapable of getting a proof that a language isn't regular right, be it using the pumping lemma (see also the many questions on the matter ...
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17 votes
1 answer
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Is metacognition ever bad?

Metacognition seems pretty universally positive. I'm wary of viewing it as such. Aside from the obvious criticisms like "you can't learn to ride a bicycle by thinking about and writing a 200 page ...
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17 votes
5 answers
1k views

What is a variable?

There are two kinds of answers I'm looking for: What do students think a variable is? What do YOU, the teacher, think a variable is? I'm also interested in why you think a variable is what you think ...
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16 votes
11 answers
13k views

Looking for simple "interesting" math problems that cannot be easily solved without algebra

I often find students who dislike algebra. They prefer to work with numbers in solving problems. I believe there are many problems that are hard to solve without algebra. For example: Finding the ...
15 votes
5 answers
1k views

Cost and benefits of compartmentalization in k-12 curriculum

This is a soft question perhaps not well suited for the format of the site but I'm interested to hear opinions from this community on this topic. K-12 mathematics textbooks (understandably) divide ...
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15 votes
3 answers
472 views

Calculation versus writing in mathematics

Writing mathematics is an important activity of the mathematician. In trying to write one's mathematics, one finds ways to balance intuition and rigor and to efficiently communicate concepts and ideas ...
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15 votes
6 answers
3k views

Is there any difference between teaching calculus for math and engineering students?

In our university both math and engineering students attend in the same calculus classes. There are arguments in our department about the possible influences of this approach on students. It seems ...
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13 votes
14 answers
3k views

What is the best way to intuitively explain what eigenvectors and eigenvalues are, AND their importance?

How can we break down the complexity of eigenvalues/vectors to something that is more intuitive for students. I feel like the proofy way isn't a good intuitive representation of the mechanism that ...
12 votes
2 answers
865 views

Definitions/proofs that allow "useless" cases?

I often see students confused/mystified by definitions (and proofs) that allow/consider "useless" cases. A case in point is the definition of a DFA (deterministic finite automaton), which allows ...
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11 votes
6 answers
1k views

How can I convince students that Fourier series are useful?

Main question: Calculating the coefficients of a Fourier series can be difficult and time-consuming. How might a student be motivated/convinced to go through these (potentially tedious) details? Are ...
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11 votes
4 answers
2k views

Mathematical concepts and techniques that **pay off the most**? [closed]

There is a smart way of learning, and it consists in first finding out what are the most valuable pieces of knowledge to acquire. The ones that will give you the highest value for your investment in ...
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8 votes
2 answers
3k views

Test Correction Analysis

In hopes of helping my students practice and deepen their understanding of math knowledge, I wanted to bring up the topic of a test correction analysis - I didn't find much on this topic when I ...
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6 votes
3 answers
321 views

Should one justify formulae in middle school?

Consider two possible lesson outlines: Check homework. Show a visual demonstration for the area of a circle, e.g. https://tube.geogebra.org/student/m279 Calculate the area of a circle as an example. ...
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5 votes
8 answers
658 views

How to justify single digit answers to long problems?

I have been teaching my student BODMAS and giving him problems like $$4\times4-6+8\div4+10\div2+5-4\times2$$ While solving the problems he asked me that, "So small answers for such big questions?" ...
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5 votes
7 answers
402 views

Category mistakes regarding symbols and their impact on math (mis) understanding. ( Object symbol/ sentence symbol confusion)

A friend of mine that teaches math has made many times the following experiment : drawing two circles on the blackboard representing two sets A and B such that A and B are disjoint writing on the ...
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2 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why are most math textbooks so uninspiring; unless you already like Math? [closed]

Why are math textbooks so often boring? It requires some mental discipline to do math; cartoons can help make the principles easier to digest. The Mathematical Association of America has many FUN ...
61 votes
13 answers
9k views

How to get past the "mystique" of Maths

This question is primarily discussing maths education for adult learners, on courses teaching engineering mathematics at an undergraduate level. These students generally never set out specifically to ...
46 votes
24 answers
19k views

How to explain Monty Hall problem when they just don't get it

Talking to some friends, I was asked to explain the answer to the Monty Hall problem (see also here;) .... they were having some trouble because whoever explained it to them didn't do a very good job. ...
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42 votes
12 answers
7k views

Is it advisable to avoid teaching "multiplication as repeated addition"?

I've had this discussion with a couple of friends. I argued that teaching multiplication as repeated addition isn't a good idea because it doesn't help children differentiate between the two ...
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35 votes
9 answers
1k views

How can we help students learn to write about their mathematics?

As a guiding example, imagine an undergraduate Calculus II course where students have to complete a guided "research project" and write a "paper" about their work. This can be a shockingly new ...
33 votes
13 answers
5k views

Lecturers "(intentional) mistakes" as a teaching tool

I have heard the story (may be an urban legend?) of a top professor who occasionally wanted to teach freshman analysis. He believed in the method of letting students see how a mathematician's mind ...
32 votes
18 answers
2k views

How to teach someone that $-3>-4$?

I am trying to teach a teenage person math, but he doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of negative numbers and $0$. Again and again he finds $-4$ greater than $-3$ because he has spent ...
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32 votes
6 answers
9k views

How can teachers warn students about common mistakes without causing the student to make the mistake?

For example, if you're teaching integration of $\int \frac{dx}{1+x^2}$, would you mention the common wrong answer of $\ln\left(1+x^2\right)+C$? -- For myself, I very rarely mention common mistakes ...
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30 votes
6 answers
2k views

What is the rationale for the absent (+) in mixed fractions?

Why are students taught to represent one and a half as $1 \frac{1}{2}$ rather than $1 + \frac{1}{2}$? This mode of expression seems standard at least throughout North America. I believe that it is bad ...
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