Donate to the Igs

Why Students Hate Algebra

Dan Meyer (a different Dan Meyer than the Ig Nobel Prize-winning swordswallower) writes:

(One Of Many Reasons) Why Students Hate Algebra

[At a “professional development day” for all us math teachers, a math coach presented this as a good problem to give students:]

A youth group with 26 members is going to the beach. There will also be 5 chaperones that will each drive a van or a car. Each van seats 7 persons, including the driver. Each car seats 5 persons, including the driver. How many vans and cars will be needed?

I leaned into another teacher and whispered, “I’m trying to decide which would be more socially acceptable right now, letting out a loud fart or saying what I really think about this problem.”

1. This is a problem you will only find in a math textbook.
2. No youth group leader would ever solve this problem with a system of equations. I’d wager that no math teacher, if somehow faced with this completely fantastic scenario, would solve this problem with a system of equations.
3. This kind of algebra makes our students dumb, unimaginative, and scared of real problems.

Improbable Research