Friday, May 27, 2011

Math problem of the week: 1900's algebra vs. Connected Mathematics

Solving equations in the Olden Days vs. the 21st Century

I.  Wentworth's New School Algebra (published in 1898), Chapter 2, "Simple Equations," final problems [click to enlarge]:

II. 8th grade Connected Mathematics, Unit 5, "Say it With Symbols," Investigations 4: "Solving Equations", final problems [click to enlarge]:

III. Extra Credit:

Compare the skill sets necessary to complete these problems. Think about your answer to this question, discuss your ideas with your peers, and then write a summary of your findings in your journal.


kcab said...

I'm struck by how much more fun the problems in Wentworth are than those in Connected Math. Also, they remind me of math contest problems, which my kids find enjoyable.

Eowyn said...

I want to find a copy of the Wentworth book; I suspect some of those problems would stump many College Algebra students.

Barry Garelick said...

I agree that these problems are fun and they are also challenging. But the thoughtworld of ed schools and beyond holds that such problems are boring to students because of lack of relevance--no one would solve such problems in real life. This never occurred to me when I was taking algebra. What the edu-experts fail to realize is that if a student is given proper instruction and knows how to solve problems, it really doesn't matter if the problem is relevant or not. A math teacher who blogs as dy/Dan holds that such problems are "pseudo-contextual". I.e., they are made to look as if they pertain to real life situations. He blogs at It would be interesting to get his opinion on these problems. Then again, maybe not so interesting.

ChemProf said...

I guarantee that some of my incoming students, who do reasonably well in calculus or pre-calc, would be stumped by these problems. One issue I see a lot in chemistry is the inability to take a word problem and figure out the math embedded within it. I'd love to see students spend more time on "inauthentic" problems like these in middle school and high school.