'Maths is easy... without trains, apples, oranges'

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New York , Apr 25 (UNI) A passenger on a train traveling at 135km/h walks toward the back of the train at a rate of 7km/h.

What is the passenger's rate of travel with respect to the ground? Remember how hard you would struggle to get some meaning out of such questions. But thanks to researchers from the US who have finally understood why these puzzling problems lead to Maths Phobia.

Scientists from the Ohio State University say students who are taught abstract maths concepts fare better in the subject than those taught with real-world examples.

According to them, adding extra details makes it hard for students to extract the basic mathematical concepts and apply them to new problems.

''The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,'' said Jennifer A Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State.

The problem with the real-world examples was that they obscured the underlying math, and students were not able to transfer their knowledge to new problems, the researchers noted.

''We're really making it difficult for students because we are distracting them from the underlying maths,'' said Dr Kaminski whose study appears today in the journal Science.

In an experiment tested on college students, the researchers suggested that their findings might also be true for math education in elementary schools, the subject of decades of debates about the best teaching methods.

It was found that the students who learned the math abstractly did well with figuring out the rules of the game.

Those who had learned through practical examples performed little better than might be expected if they were simply guessing.

However, students who were presented the abstract symbols after the concrete examples did better than those who learned only through concrete examples, but not as well as those who learned only the abstract symbols.

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