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The Boulder and the Pebble

The Boulder and the Pebble

1 minute

by Tom Herlihy

Driving down a steep mountain road, the driver suddenly slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop!

Stunned by the dramatic turn of events, the passenger anxiously asked him why he had stopped so suddenly.

The driver replied: “Why, don’t you see that boulder?”

“What boulder? Are you talking about that pebble in the roadway?” replied the passenger.

“What’s the matter with you? That’s a boulder!”

At this point the passenger got out of the car, went over to the pebble, and kicked it out of the way. As he got back into his seat, he looked at the flabbergasted driver, who exclaimed: “I can’t believe it; it really was a pebble!”

The driver then stepped on the gas and drove on.

What does this have to do with high school math, you may ask? Well, maybe a lot.

Here’s why. Students often magnify the difficulties involved in working out math problems. They run into a minor misunderstanding in the course of solving a problem and imagine it to be of major importance. Unless somehow they can be shown that it is simply a minor difficulty that can easily be remedied, the student is apt to get not only bogged down on that problem, but also suffer a loss of overall mathematical confidence. They start to doubt themselves and begin to seriously think that they are “no good at math.” And in math, confidence is at least 50% of the battle.

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What is needed at these critical moments is someone or something to show them that the “boulder” is really just a pebble.

Consider the following ways of showing that “boulders” are really pebbles:

  1. Solution Manual and/or Saxon Teacher CD. Do a problem and immediately check the solution. If right, move on. If wrong, find out exactly where the mistake lies by comparing your solution to the solution shown. Then do the problem over from the beginning.
  2. Textbook and/or Saxon Teacher or DIVE CDs. If the solution manual’s solution is not enough, go back to the lesson the problem came from and read the explanation about the concept.
  3. Seek help from another person: father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, tutor, or call a Seton math counselor. If the other two ways are not enough, the help of another person is essential. Find someone who will walk you through the solution to isolate your difficulty and correct it.

pebbleIn all this, remind students to realize that there is no substitute for diligence and hard work. If students do not concentrate while reading and studying the textbook or CD lessons, they should not expect to truly understand the concepts involved in solving the textbook or test problems.

In any case, do not allow them to get bogged down by imaginary boulders.

Header Image CC Pandiyan

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