Two Trains Leave a Station Going 30mph...

Stop! Story problems wrong way to teach math, study says
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2008 12:54 PM CDT
Colorful sacks of marbles and word problems about trains may not work as well as simple examples in math teaching, a new study finds.   (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
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(Newser) – All those sacks of different-colored marbles and word problems about pizza slices may not actually teach kids effectively, Reuters reports. Though meant to offer a real-world grounding, story problems just add extra distractions, a new study says, suggesting that students might be better off learning abstract concepts than figuring out which speeding train will reach the station first.

"The danger with teaching using this example is that many students only learn how to solve the problem with the trains," said the study's author. "Story problems aren't out, but they are probably not the way we want to go about introducing concepts or problem-solving. That would be best done through symbolic math."