Texas A and M University researchers ... 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.They had me until that last line.
"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.
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...
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."
Students' Understanding of the Equal Sign Not Equal, Professor Says
August 11, 2010
How do Everyday Math and Terc teach the equal sign?