Your opinion on how to interpret a problem

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In summary, the problem was too vague and caused students to misinterpret it. The TA has decided to give full credit to anyone who calculates the difference correctly, regardless of what is posted on the thread.
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I'm grading some homework (I'm a TA) and one of the word problems is rather vague. The problem is very short, it asks one to calculate a property of two objects, and then asks "how much more" for one of the objects.

When I took the class I considered this as asking for the difference between quantity A and B. The TA when I took the class end up taking off 40% of what the problem was worth. The correct answer was to calculate a ratio. The wording, in my opinion, was too vague, and for me, when someone asks "how much more" one object is with regard to another, that's asking for a difference of some sort.

Now that I'm in the TA position, I don't necessarily want to punish people for interpreting problem like I originally did. I'm going to give full credit for anyone that calculated a the difference correctly regardless of what anyone posts here. Indeed, by the time anyone replies the homework will be graded and out of my hands.

So, just curious, how would any of you handle this?
 
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  • #2
IMO it seems vague to me as well. I would do what you plan to do unless specific instruction was given in class.
 
  • #3
Phys O said:
I'm grading some homework (I'm a TA) and one of the word problems is rather vague. The problem is very short, it asks one to calculate a property of two objects, and then asks "how much more" for one of the objects.

When I took the class I considered this as asking for the difference between quantity A and B. The TA when I took the class end up taking off 40% of what the problem was worth. The correct answer was to calculate a ratio. The wording, in my opinion, was too vague, and for me, when someone asks "how much more" one object is with regard to another, that's asking for a difference of some sort.

Now that I'm in the TA position, I don't necessarily want to punish people for interpreting problem like I originally did. I'm going to give full credit for anyone that calculated a the difference correctly regardless of what anyone posts here. Indeed, by the time anyone replies the homework will be graded and out of my hands.

So, just curious, how would any of you handle this?

Your original description of the problem did not refer to the word difference [which implies subtraction].
Expressing an increase as a factor or percentage increase is by far the most common.

For example, suppose you have a wire of given resistance, then another is made from wire whose resistivity is 0.1 more, it is 1 metre longer and 0.5 mm thicker. What will be the resistance of the new wire?

Where as if the resistivity is 130% greater, it is 12.5% longer and 20% thicker ...

As a stand alone queston, there may be some ambiguity, but in the context of the other questions involved, the type of answer should be obvious. If I were a student, I would be saying "that's an increase of 47.5 or 12%" to cover both bases.

EDIT: I would be interested in seeing the exact wording of the question you refer to.
 
  • #4
I would consult with the course professor, and explain your reasoning. It might be best to accept either form of answer.
 
  • #5


I believe that the interpretation of a problem is crucial in finding the correct solution. In this case, the wording of the problem seems to be vague and can be interpreted in different ways. As a TA, it is important to provide clear and specific instructions to avoid confusion and ensure that students are able to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.

In my opinion, the phrase "how much more" can be interpreted as the difference between two quantities or as a ratio. However, in a scientific context, it is more common to calculate ratios when comparing two objects. Therefore, I believe that the correct answer should be to calculate a ratio.

As a TA, it is important to be fair and consistent in grading. If the problem was graded differently when you took the class, it may be beneficial to discuss it with the professor and come up with a clear and specific instruction for future assignments. In this case, since the homework has already been graded, it would be fair to give full credit to those who calculated the difference correctly.

In conclusion, as a scientist and a TA, it is important to provide clear and specific instructions for problem-solving, and to be fair and consistent in grading. In the future, it may be helpful to provide examples or clarification of the wording of the problem to avoid confusion and ensure that students are able to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.
 

1. What is your opinion on the importance of understanding the context of a problem before interpreting it?

In my opinion, understanding the context of a problem is crucial for effective interpretation. Without understanding the background, variables, and constraints of a problem, it is difficult to come up with a meaningful interpretation that can lead to a practical solution.

2. How do you approach interpreting a complex problem?

When faced with a complex problem, I like to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This helps me to understand the various aspects of the problem and how they are interconnected. I also like to gather as much information and data as possible to support my interpretation.

3. What role does creativity play in interpreting a problem?

Creativity is a crucial aspect of problem interpretation. It allows us to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. By approaching a problem with an open mind and exploring different perspectives, we can often uncover unique and effective interpretations.

4. How do you ensure that your interpretation of a problem is objective?

I believe that objectivity in interpretation is achieved through a combination of critical thinking, logical reasoning, and considering multiple viewpoints. It is important to remain open to new information and to constantly reassess and adjust our interpretations based on evidence and data.

5. Can you provide an example of a successful problem interpretation you have done in the past?

One example of a successful problem interpretation I have done in the past was in a research project where we were studying the behavior of a certain species of birds. By examining their habitat, diet, and social behavior, we were able to interpret their actions and patterns of movement, which led to a better understanding of their behavior and potential conservation strategies.

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