Fraction Frustration

A fraction is nothing more than an expression of division.

This is evidently lost in the world of high school students.  Not all, but some.  And that’s some too many.  My directions: “Solve for x.  Circle the choice of the correct answer.”  A little digression – I put “circle the correct” answer in the directions, so when I get the question “why didn’t I get this right?” I can just say “because you didn’t follow directions.”

Ok, so problem 4 on today’s algebra 2 quiz: 3(x + 5) = 16.  Algebra TWO.  I have to do this in algebra TWO.  In the middle of October.  Sad in its own right, but I’m not too disheartened by that.  All of the choices were either integers or fractions.  One of them, if you can do pre-algebra, was x = 1/3 (the correct choice).  Hand raises: “Mr. Thomas, this is what I got (shows me calculator, 0.3333333), but it’s not one of the choices.”  I think about rolling my eyes and saying “seriously?” but hold back and point to the last step of the work on her own paper, that says “3x = 1.”  Then she drew the division vinculum under the 3x and under the 1, to divide each side by 3.  She has written, as her next step, “x = 1/3,” which IS choice (b).  As I am pointing, I say “what does that say?”  x equals one divided by three.  “Okay, so what does this say (pointing at choice (b)?)”  x equals one-third.  But when I do one divided by three, I got point three three three three three.  After a few more exchanges we arrived at the conclusion that the calculator gave its best estimation, 0.3333333, and that was indeed the choice 1/3.  A fraction IS a division problem.  I am completely in shock as to the fear of fractions written vertically.  As soon as I write it with the obelus (bar with one dot on top, one on bottom) between, it’s a division problem.  With a fraction bar, I might as well ask them to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem in the 42 minute period.  Ca-Razy.

On that note, 4-2 Flyers.  While an undefeated 82-0 is pretty unlikely, it’s looking good so far.  But who cares, they’ll do wonderfully in the regular season but choke in the playoffs.  No wait, that’s Philly baseball.  No wait, that’s Philly football.  No wait I was right in the first place, that’s Philly hockey.  No wait, that’s Philly.


About Mr. T

Well, I'm interested in math. Teaching it, learning it, describing it, living it. Creating it. Most importantly (to me) is helping others appreciate it as much as I do.
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