Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Students' understanding of the equal sign not equal, professor says

Date:
August 11, 2010
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
Taken very literally, not all students are created equal -- especially in their math learning skills, say researchers who have found that not fully understanding the "equal sign" in a math problem could be a key to why US students underperform their peers from other countries in math.

Taken very literally, not all students are created equal -- especially in their math learning skills, say Texas A&M University researchers who have found that not fully understanding the "equal sign" in a math problem could be a key to why U.S. students underperform their peers from other countries in math.

"About 70 percent of middle grades students in the United States exhibit misconceptions, but nearly none of the international students in Korea and China have a misunderstanding about the equal sign, and Turkish students exhibited far less incidence of the misconception than the U.S. students," note Robert M. Capraro and Mary Capraro of the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M.

They have been trying to evaluate the success of math education through students' interpretation of the equal sign. They have published several articles on this topic, with the most recent one published in the February 2010 issue of the journal Psychological Reports.

Students who exhibit the correct understanding of the equal sign show the greatest achievement in mathematics and persist in fields that require mathematics proficiency like engineering, according to their research.

"The equal sign is pervasive and fundamentally linked to mathematics from kindergarten through upper-level calculus," Robert M. Capraro says. "The idea of symbols that convey relative meaning, such as the equal sign and "less than" and "greater than" signs, is complex and they serve as a precursor to ideas of variables, which also require the same level of abstract thinking."

The problem is students memorize procedures without fully understanding the mathematics, he notes.

"Students who have learned to memorize symbols and who have a limited understanding of the equal sign will tend to solve problems such as 4+3+2=( )+2 by adding the numbers on the left, and placing it in the parentheses, then add those terms and create another equal sign with the new answer," he explains. "So the work would look like 4+3+2=(9)+2=11.

"This response has been called a running equal sign -- similar to how a calculator might work when the numbers and equal sign are entered as they appear in the sentence," he explains. "However, this understanding is incorrect. The correct solution makes both sides equal. So the understanding should be 4+3+2=(7)+2. Now both sides of the equal sign equal 9."

One cause of the problem might be the textbooks, the research shows.

The Texas A&M researchers examined textbooks in China and the United States and found "Chinese textbooks provided the best examples for students and that even the best U.S. textbooks, those sponsored by the National Science Foundation, were lacking relational examples about the equal sign."

Parents and teachers can help the students. The two researchers suggest using mathematics manipulatives and encourage teachers "to read professional journals, become informed about the problem and modify their instruction."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Students' understanding of the equal sign not equal, professor says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122200.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2010, August 11). Students' understanding of the equal sign not equal, professor says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122200.htm
Texas A&M University. "Students' understanding of the equal sign not equal, professor says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122200.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Google To Protect Against Piracy ... At A Cost

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Google is changing its search-engine results to protect content producers from piracy — for a price. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

What We Know About Microsoft's Rumored Smartwatch

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Microsoft will reportedly release a smartwatch that works across different mobile platforms, has a two-day battery life and tracks heart rate. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Is Spotify Family A Great Deal Or Catching Up?

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) Spotify Family lets you add a family member to your account for half price. Although users are excited, it's a move competitors have already made. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins