Home > Math Lint Archive Detail

<< Prev 10/14/2007 Next >>

Grade Five Errors

Continuing with my discussion of the television show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, the show's web site has an interesting on-going Forum. Viewers write in about everything... the contestants' stupidity, the clashing color of a contestant's dress, and occasionally serious things such as mathematics errors.

Perhaps the biggest error occurred in the on-line game available to all visitors to the site. The question was: What is the longest: a line segment, a line, or a ray." I will pause for you to answer it...

The "correct" answer according to the web site was "line." But, we all know that both a line and a ray are infinite in length.

And user ZIMDOG's reasoning for the incorrect answer: "Again, in elementary school, it is said that a ray is half a line, so.....for an elementary school question, a line is bigger than a ray is bigger than a line segment."

Yes, as mathematics educators, we are in trouble...but do we focus our attention on helping students learn...or helping adults relearn?