Common Core Sticker Fail The following “math” problem based on the Common Core curricula has been uncovered:
— Kevin (@kevinpost) December 6, 2013
Sadly, this badly worded question was by one of the more respected schoolbook publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt…
The obvious problems with this are many.
Amongst the problems it that it talks about both bags of stickers and number of stickers. There is no information about the number of stickers per bag. The questions simply assumes that the “bag of stickers” bought is the same thing as the “bag of stickers” given out to friends. The question being how many “stickers” to buy throws that off.
It also isn’t specified how many friends there are. Perhaps the kid doesn’t know if there will be four or six friends that will end up getting it? In that case you’d need at least 12, though any number that can be divided by 4 or 6 would be equally valid, so really, an infinite number of answers would work.
If it has asked what the smallest number of bags the kid should buy to make sure that it could be divided amongst either 4 or 6 other kids, the answer would be 12 (assuming that buying 12 bags is affordable, in which case an even number of bags would be 0 if it weren’t).
However, the question seems to state that the choice is between 4 total bags and 6 total bags. Without knowing the number of friends, it becomes impossible to answer.
One must infer the number of friends or infer that the number of friends is unknown but that 4 or 6 would somehow satisfy.
Word problems are perfectly good, if they are well written. It is when they are poorly written or confusing where boys will tend struggle more than girls because the subtle nuances of language the inferences thereof becomes what is being taught rather than the simple mathematical principles. Even then, many girls would also struggle due to the horrid wording.
If one is taught the mathematical principles first, then it is easier to extract the pertinent information from the word problem, than to play word games and somehow divine the mathematical principles therefrom. Far too often boys are shamed and made to feel inferior for asking questions when the verbal explanation isn’t clear, or the principle being taught isn’t elucidated.
When something is as horribly communicated as that “math” problem, everyone is disservice either through confusion or encouragement to sloppy communication.