View Full Version : Re: Memorizing equations -- short summary

Young-hoo Kwon, Ph.d.
02-05-1999, 08:10 AM
Dear colleagues:

Several days ago, I posted a message in response to Prof Jared Coburn's
summary regarding memorization of equations. I thank all the individuals who
responded to my posting: Steve Knudsen, Richard Hinrichs, Peter Quesada,
Drew Smith & Gerry Smith.

Among the responses, I got some specific feedback regarding item 4 of my
original message.

>4. One more interesting observation. I noticed that my students, without
exception, always plug the numbers in the equation up front without first
manipulating the equation to obtain a more useful form. I presume this is
the general trend of math education in the US. I was trained to always
pre-treat the equation in such a way that later you get direct answer from
the final form of equation. [ This is partially because of the tough
university-entering exam in my country.] This approach gives a tremendous
advantage. You will be able to learn different properties of the same
equation in this process. It certainly has positive impacts on the student's
learning process.

Respondants generally agreed on the importance of manipulation of the
equations before plugging in numbers, and mentioned that they've had
difficulties in actually implementing this approach. They also confirmed the
general trend of math education in the US in which students are trained to
plug in numbers early before any manipulation of the equation. Since
students have been trained in this way, it will be really difficult to
reverse the tide in the kinesiology or biomechanics class in the college. It
seems we are not only struggling with the negative outcome of this
interesting math education system, but also we are still reinforcing this
interesting system by providing the equations and focusing on how to plug in
numbers, etc.

Dr. Peter Quesada, University of Louisville, offered me an interesting tip:
use of problems in which only letters and symbols are assigned, and no
numbers are given. "This forces the students to work the problem through. It
also makes it possible to do a complete units check (in generalized units)
to ensure that the final answer has the correct units." I will try this in
this semester.

Sorry to those who are not in the US, and thanks again to those who
responded to my posting. Have a nice weekend!

- Young-Hoo Kwon, Ph.D.
- The Human Performance/Biomechanics Lab, PL 202
- Ball State University
- Phone: +1 (765) 285-5126
- Fax: +1 (765) 285-9066
- E-mail: ykwon@bsu-cs.bsu.edu
- Homepage: http://www.cs.bsu.edu/~ykwon/

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