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Way too hard in HW sometimes

  1. Oct 12, 2013 #1
    May I complain about something I feel is unfair? Here's the scenario:

    A poor helpless student comes here with a problem and says, "I have no idea where to begin" or something like that and the forum rules are "you must show your work to get help".

    Well, does anyone see a contradiction there? How can they show their work if they don't have a clue how to start? And what, poor sympathetic me comes along and thinks, "well, I know just what they need" but no, I'll get popped if I "intervene" so like a good worker-bee I say nothing and the Riemann Hypothesis remains unproven.

    Alas, I am beset by the ironies in my life.
    Jack
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2013 #2

    arildno

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    Well, "I have no idea" is NEVER acceptable.
    Students do have thoughts on what might be relevant equations, or at the very least they should be able to pin-point what they don't understand.
     
  4. Oct 12, 2013 #3
    Well arildno, I'm a little disappointed you're so unsympathetic to this matter with a "just let them drown" attitude. Sometimes they really don't have a clue I believe, no thoughts, no relevant equations, no pin-points, no nothing. But if we could just give them a nudge, just get them over the top, past the critical point, they might blossom!

    I know I'm right about this matter and would hope one day PF could relax the rules a bit.
     
  5. Oct 12, 2013 #4

    ZapperZ

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    Sorry, but this is not THAT harsh. A student must know SOMETHING to be in that class. Even if he/she doesn't know where to start, at the very lease he/she should know the CHAPTER that is relevant to the problem.

    For example, say this is a kinematic problem. He/she should at least have seen the typical kinematic a equations and be able to write those down, even if he/she doesn't know which one to use. We will at least know where to start! If the student isn't even aware of these, then there are bigger problems here than just solving this problem. Simply saying he/she doesn't know where to start tells us NOTHING about what that person knows and don't know. And for many of us who care about teaching them how to fish, knowing what skills and knowledge that are already there is a vital piece of information!

    Let be clear on this. It takes considerably MORE effort on the part of the helper to do it this way, rather than just blurt out the answer or the staring point. It takes a lot of careful thoughts and guidance to guide someone to discover for him/herself where to find what to use and how to use it. Yet, many of us know that this is one of the most effective means to teach someone effectively AND for it to be fair that that person is actually doing the work if this is a HW problem.

    Zz.
     
  6. Oct 12, 2013 #5

    Evo

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    Unless they slept through class, how can they have "no idea"? They should have enough knowledge to at least be able to make an attempt. We're not here to handhold people that paid no attention in class.

    Edit: Zz said it much better.
     
  7. Oct 12, 2013 #6

    arildno

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    Well, they are perfectly able to say, for example: "What does that particular symbol mean?"
    What does the book mean with "that phrase"?

    So no, ALL students are perfectly able to identify a number of specific sub-problems they have, if they just bother to formulate them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  8. Oct 12, 2013 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    "I have no idea" is lazy and unacceptable.

    A better answer is "I tried X, Y and Z, and now I have no idea what to try next."
    An even better answer is "I tried X, and this happened. Then I tried Y and this happened. If I can show W, I can see how Z might work, but I have no idea how to show that."
     
  9. Oct 12, 2013 #8

    phinds

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    Is fairly pathetic. As others have pointed out, "I have no idea" is laziness personified.
     
  10. Oct 12, 2013 #9

    lisab

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    I think I understand jackmell's point here.

    If a person is sleep-deprived, scared, overwhelmed, homesick, frustrated, and full of self-doubt (maybe for the first time in their lives), then it's easy to lose one's bearings and truly "have no idea". Once they calm down, take a deep breath, get a full night's sleep and a good meal, then they have more confidence. Then, they will remember what chapter they're on and what the relevant concepts are.

    When someone comes here for help, it can often feel (to them) like we are their last resort. Their lives are already full of harsh reality, sometimes all they need is a bit of encouragement.
     
  11. Oct 12, 2013 #10
    Please don't attribute this to laziness. As a frequent poster in homework help section, I do have sometimes "no idea" to begin with but that doesn't mean I am being lazy. For instance, I posted the following thread yesterday:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=716088

    After the hints, I did take the time to post my complete attempt. I hope you don't call that laziness.
     
  12. Oct 12, 2013 #11

    Evo

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    And that's exactly what we do, we encourage them to go back and rethink things. What we don't do is start spoon feeding them so that they think they can get away with making no effort and expect someone to rescue them.
     
  13. Oct 12, 2013 #12

    Evo

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    You probably don't see the level of laziness we do. I constantly see people erase the template, upload a jpg that is barely readable and say "Hlp plz!!!!!!!
     
  14. Oct 13, 2013 #13

    davenn

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    I have to agree with the common sentiment here
    I'm active on a number of forums and it just blows me away, over and over again the general laziness of people these days... they seem to want to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.
    90% of the time, if they just typed their question into google, they would have come up with a bunch of good answers. If then they still had misunderstandings/doubts etc and then came here and asked resonably specific questions, I would respect that action a lot more and be much more willing to lead them in the right direction
    For any of us at ~ 40 yrs old and older, we never had google or even much internet when we were all doing our high school, college or university studies.
    I spent hours and hours reading books in the university library, and only after lots of digging for info on my own and I still didnt understand something, I would go to my my lecturers etc for further explanation.
    I'm sure a lot of you fellow "seniors" here could identify with that :smile:

    That's my 2 cents :wink:

    Dave
     
  15. Oct 13, 2013 #14

    Borek

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    Sadly, some people treat us as a first resort.

    People posting at PF are already past the first step of help - they were given a template that should force them and help them organize their thoughts. Often they already ignored it.

    That being said - I understand the jackmell sentiment, sometimes I feel the same way. But honestly, I have no idea which approach is better - making them face harsh reality, or leaving no kid behind. It basically boils down to this choice.
     
  16. Oct 13, 2013 #15

    arildno

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    Well, I don't really see jakmell's point.
    For, it is perfectly acceptable at PF to give a first answer to "I have no idea" as, for example:
    "Are there some words in the text you do not understand?" rather than "Show us your work".
     
  17. Oct 13, 2013 #16

    SteamKing

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    From some of the posts, you would think that the posters had never stepped in the class in the first place and had no texts or other reference materials available. A lot of questions can be answered with a quick Google or Yahoo. I'm not a big fan of knowing all the answers, but knowing where to find the answers is often half the battle.
     
  18. Oct 13, 2013 #17

    mfb

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    What about formulas for (total) linear and angular momentum?

    "I have no idea where to start" might have been possible 15+ years ago, if the library was closed at that point.
    In 2013, I have no idea how you cannot be able to find anything about the topic of homework problems. Find some equations about the topic, try to see if they seem to have some relevance for the problem, show what you did, and you are at least (often more) one step beyond "I have no idea".
     
  19. Oct 13, 2013 #18

    First, I believe I'm a gifted teacher even though my wonderful talents often go unnoticed. So being such, I believe I know what it takes to succeed in that endeavour. Often I will suggest working on a different, simpler problem and if necessary, help them through it. And if they succeed, the knowledge they gained solving this simpler problem will propel them through the problem they're having difficulty with.

    Now, this morning I checked the thread that prompted me to start this one and the OP is not replying with "I got it!" He needs more help than the limited help given because of our rule for not helping until you show some work. If he doesn't solve it, have we not as teachers, failed to accomplish our goal? But we could succeed: suggest a simpler problem to work on, and start if for them just a little bit so they get some type of "hold" on it. Oh that won't give the answer but it's close and if they work through it, if they know from me telling them that effort on this simple problem will take them over the hump and give them the knowledge to solve the original problem, then they will be encouraged to try and just that little bit might be enough to cause something wonderful to happen. :)

    The smallest of effects can have the greatest of consequences.
     
  20. Oct 13, 2013 #19
    Ok, I agree. The student should at least google some relevant key words and often that will be helpful. It's a little tiring though to always suggest google and to be fair, perhaps we should already be assuming the student has done that to no avail and that's why they're asking for more help here.
     
  21. Oct 13, 2013 #20

    arildno

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    "perhaps we should already be assuming the student has done that to no avail and that's why they're asking for more help here. "
    Why is reality denial a virtue?
    Many students don't bother to read their textbooks, nor make any other efforts on their own. That's an empirical fact.
     
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