Many students from elementary to high school have the same problems with understanding mathematics. One of students biggest problems is the inability to represent their thinking. Representations can be oral, numeric, drawn, concrete, on a computer, etc. A student may understand a problem in its oral form, for example, but the written version of the same problem may stump the student because they incorrectly make the transition from the words and symbols on the paper to their mind when they attempt to reason out the answer. This was the case in Fennells experiment where an elementary student gave the correct response to an oral math problem in the form of a story but could not give the right answer when the same questions representations became numerical (Fennell, 2001, 289). Many other students problems lie in their weakness in mathematical vocabulary. Math, of course, is taught through the medium of language, so Thompson believes that "students need to master this [mathematical] language if they are to read, understand, and discuss mathematical ideas." Students often cannot remember the correct vocabulary terms and their meanings, and other times, misuse terms resulting in further confusion. Weakness in mathematical vocabulary can make understanding and explaining a mathematical concept extremely difficult (2000). Another problem, according to Werner Liedtke, an education professor in math, is that many people "feel its alright to muddle your way through what some people call some basic notions of arithmetic" and this attitude is easy to adopt if a person has had earlier problems with elementary mathematics. (Dedyna 2002, Press). Emphasis on speed on math classes may also be a problem for a large number of students. Answers are expected too quickly and that puts stress on the students. Liedtke expresses, "We lose many, many students because of the emphasis on speed in math classes. We have children waking up at night, fearing the next days speed test." (Dedyna 2002, Press).Why do students suffer from these problems? The representation problem, first off, may be because the students are not given the choice of how to represent their thinking. The representation is imposed on them whether they are strong with that form or not. Students have their own methods of learning best using the representations they find most logical but if they are put in a situation where they cannot use those methods, the math
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