Washington: 70 percent students in the US misunderstand the equal sign in mathematics, reveals a new research.
Texas A&M University researchers said that understanding the “equal sign” in a math problem could be a key to why U.S. students under perform as compared to their peers from other countries in math.
However, Robert M Capraro and Mary Capraro said that students in Korea, Turkey and China don’t have any such glaring misconceptions.
And those who understand it best are the ones who do best at math, the researchers said.
“The equal sign is pervasive and fundamentally linked to mathematics from kindergarten through upper-level calculus,” Robert M Capraro said.
“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,” he added.
Capraro said that a weak math student would solve the answer to the question 4+3+2=( )+2 as 4+3+2=(9)+2=11, which 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,” he said.
The researchers added that textbooks might be at fault for this issue.
“Chinese textbooks provided the best examples for students and that even the best US textbooks, those sponsored by the National Science Foundation, were lacking relational examples about the equal sign,” he said.
Meanwhile, they suggest that parents help the students and teachers “read professional journals, become informed about the problem and modify their instruction.”
The research is published in the February 2010 issue of the journal Psychological Reports.