# Questions tagged [students-mistakes]

For questions investigating students mistakes, clarifying their origin and asking for advice to fix or improve the mistakes.

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### What to do with "wild goose chase" or "quantum leap"-types of incorrect solutions when you ask students to prove/show something?

So in an advanced mathematics course for engineers, there are often problems of the type: Prove claim A. Given equation A, show that you can obtain equation Z. I am frequently faced with a problem ...
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### Does there exist a (statistical) topology induced by students on the space of algebraic formulas? :)

It's kind of a serious question even if the title seems silly. As math educators, we all know that students link together different algebraic expressions thinking that they mean the same thing, e.g. \...
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### Scepticism as the cornerstone for not making mistakes in arithmetic/algebra etc, especially for students who relentlessly make every possible error

As a maths tutor, some students I have tutored don't just make the odd mistake in arithmetic (including fractions) and algebra: they make every possible mistake and regularly. My go-to approach for ...
333 views

### Common mistakes in probability

$\DeclareMathOperator\Var{Var}\DeclareMathOperator\Bern{Bern}\DeclareMathOperator\Pois{Pois}$Question: What not-trivial mistakes do students often make when solving problems in probability theory, ...
5k views

### Is patching up a student's poor solution better than providing a good solution?

A student benefits from their attempt at a solution or proof being checked by the teacher. My own view is that, if the student's work is poor, it is best just to provide a model solution or proof in ...
4k views

### Students confusing "object types" in introductory proofs class

In my intro to proofs (and discrete mathematics) class, I see a common mistake where students make nonsensical statements because, for lack of a better term, they confuse the types of the mathematical ...
287 views

### How to teach the concept of probability distribution?

I observed that my students do not understand what a probability distribution is. We do not treat probability axiomatically on the course, so the required level of understanding is knowing all the ...
878 views

### Why can't students master math simply by passive reading?

Yearly, at least one student emails me this question, after wholly relying on passive reading then failing the exam. They successfully remember and can regurgitate everything from the textbook and ...
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### How can a teacher help a student who has internalized mistakes?

John is trying to learn some field of mathematics. John's teacher Sarah gives constructive criticism to John after seeing John's attempts on exercises related to the field he studies. Later, John ...
461 views

### How can you elicit the $\log x = {\log} \cdot x$ error?

You know the error, when you're watching a student work through an algebraic calculation to solve for a variable trapped in the argument of a function, usually $\log$ or a trig function, and you watch ...
557 views

### Analyzing an answer to the following problem: Give meaning to $\frac{4}{5} + \frac{2}{3}$

Case: Exam Problem given to student at university: Give a problem/context illustrating the operation $\frac{4}{5} + \frac{2}{3}$ Answer by student: Anna and Beatrice buy flowers for grandpa for his ...
3k views

### How do you coach students who often make small errors?

Some students are prone to making small calculation errors. Not errors in understanding, but errors like adding or multiplying integers incorrectly, or dropping a negative sign. Unsystematic errors in ...
7k views

### How does a teacher come up with plausible wrong answers for multiple choice tests?

When taking a MOOC in calculus the exercises contain 5 options to select from. I then solve the question and select the option that matches my answer. Obviously only one of the options is correct. But ...
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### Quote to show students don't have to fear making mistakes

I have some high school students which seem to be afraid of making mistakes. They are hesitant to make exercises in class because they want their course notes to be super clean, without any mistakes. ...
683 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 ...
453 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 ... 1k views

### What are some common ways students get confused about finding an inverse of a function?

What are some common ways students get confused about finding an inverse of a function? One I can think of is conflating multiplicative inverses of rational numbers with functional inverses. e.g. ...
4k views

### How to explain what's wrong with this application of the chain rule?

Yesterday a student in my calculus class attempted something like this: Problem statement: Find the derivative of $3^{(5x+1)}$ with respect to $x$. Proposed solution: Let the inner function be ...
818 views

### How to deal with "Why can't I just do ......" in real analysis?

I'm teaching introductory real analysis at a large public university in the US. A common question from students is of the form "Why can't I just do it like this?". i.e. Often a student has come up ...
1k views

### Multiple students writing $y\frac{d}{dx}$ rather than $\frac{d}{dx}y$ -- why?

I'm currently teaching a couple of courses that have a calculus prerequisite, and within the last week I've had two students make notational mistakes that amount to writing $y\frac{d}{dx}$ rather than ... 2k views

### "Always/Sometimes/Never" vs. "True/False" questions for mathematical reasoning

Has anyone performed a study on the differences between student interpretations of these words? Background: When I taught high school geometry and later undergraduate precalculus, I noticed that ...
251 views

### How to remedy the "freshman's dream"? [duplicate]

I am teaching a mid-level calculus course, and I see my students making the freshman's dream mistake of thinking that every function is a homomorphism. In particular, they think that exponents can be ...
777 views

### How students write their work, and learning outcomes

While teaching students mathematics, I have noticed that some seem sloppy in the way that they write down their work. For example, a student is given a question: What is the area of the rectangle? <...
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### Mnemonics for some properties in mathematics

I am looking for various mnemonics which help students to remember some important properties or theorems. Very often students confuse signs or relations such as $\leq$ and $\geq$ in some expressions. ...
115 views

### Why does result depend on procedure in my calculation of surface area using Guldin? [closed]

At present, I teach Guldin's rules for surface and volume of rotation, and give an example task from the textbook. The textbook uses procedure 1 (below) for calculation (below), but I advocate that ...
331 views

### Algebra best practices for students

One thing I notice frequently is that students don't have 'best practices' for doing algebra. Let me given an example: If students are trying to differentiate, say, $f(x) = (x^2 + x)^2$, they will ...
178 views

### Adding one to numbers bigger than ten

If someone asks you Tell me the next number (add one) after the number one million two hundred thirty-one thousand ninety-nine, do you known if it is a common error that the first number that ...
804 views

### teach that $\frac10$ not defined properly

there're some students, who belive that $$\frac10 = \infty$$ I need to teach them that this is not true and $\frac10$ is undefined, mathematically and give a good picture (for their minds) what is ...
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### Misuse of parentheses for multiplication

I'd like to raise the issue of constant misuse of parentheses in the U.S., and I'm wondering if anybody else shares the same feelings, has had the same issues, knows any history behind it, and can ...
179 views

### Catalog of undergraduate's misconceptions / problems while proving

Selden & Selden (2011) listed 41 difficulties their students had in an experimental proving course into 9 categories. Unfortunately I haven't found similar work. Thus, my question is: Is there ...
2k views

### Why does the widespread erroneous definition of "irrational number" persist without being taught?

Among the mathematically ignorant one often finds a mistaken proposed definition of "irrational number", which says that it is a number whose decimal expansion does not terminate or repeat. The ...
461 views

### Literature on learning from errors in mathematics

In teaching undergraduate mathematics, I implemented some strategies to encourage the students to look at errors they made or at "typical errors" in the current topic. One attempt was to compile a ...
### Do students confuse $\log_ab$ and $\log a^b$?
I recently observed a group of students being introduced to logarithms for the first time. Some of them had trouble writing $\log_ab$ properly, and it looked more like $\log a^b$. All logarithms have ...