The word flummoxed sounds like a digestive challenge more than a vocabulary word meaning confused or bewildered. Maybe there’s such a thing as mental indigestion. Offering the word to students brought unexpected responses.
In the spirit of getting students to use new vocabulary words, it has been fun to add a vocabulary section to homework assignments. Rather than simply ask for a definition or ask for use of the word in a sentence, the prompt asks a personal question, which in order to answer requires an understanding of the highlighted word in the prompt. Therefore, I asked thirty students over two classes, “Tell about an experience in a class at school where something left you flummoxed.”
Seriously, it was a surprise to get ten responses referencing math, but the surprise may simply indicate naiveté on my part. Three responses mentioned psychology, but math dominated this prompt.
My heartiest congratulations to the math department at colleges everywhere in the country. I am so jealous that their subject is the one to flummox students, who often murmur against math as inapplicable to the rest of life and especially many vocations.
I’ve always been one to heartily disagree. The logic and complex problem solving skills of math can’t hurt anybody, and doubtless greatly enhance anyone’s general mental acumen. The perseverance and discipline needed for math are a rugged form of PT comparable to any gym worth calling itself a gym. What gym by the way is considered valuable vocationally except for the secondary benefits of cerebral wellbeing that comes from being more fit?
Last, consider the sheer beauty of math. It may not appear beautiful at first, but math is beautiful. If our culture hopes to keep up with education internationally, more such beauty needs to be cultivated.
For now, bless the students who are flummoxed by math. They have the opportunity to apply a lesson taught by an old mentor of mine who regularly said, “Confusion is the pathway to clarity.” Here are the student responses to the prompt:
- Pretty much every day in math I leave that class bewildered.
- Typically I like to think of myself as a fairly sharp person. Higher level math, however, often left me so flummoxed that I didn’t even understand what I didn’t understand.
- Doing math leaves me flummoxed. All the algebraic equations that we will never use in life, would leave anyone flummoxed.
- It was my first day in a college level math class. The professor coursed through the lesson leaving me flummoxed. My mind was scrambled smoother than the eggs I ate for breakfast.
- I thought college Algebra would be an easy review. But after the first day, I was completely flummoxed.
- Every day in math I am flummoxed. I have no idea what is going on and why there are formulas to problems and answers to questions that don’t exist.
- While in math class, I was flummoxed when the teacher was talking about Conics.
- Math class has always been my weakness, but when I went to my first college math class I was so flummoxed during the entire term that I did not pass the term. I had to take it three times and on my third time I got an A plus.
- During my high school career the hardest class for me was Geometry. The class constantly left me flummoxed over working the equations along with the shapes.
- An experience in class that left me flummoxed was when we were doing graphs in a math class I once had. Graphs have always confused me.