Why do students ask so many stupid questions on the Internet?

Why do so many students post simple math homework questions on Yahoo Answers and other forums (similar in difficulty level to the ones that I have posted about in my “Stupid Math Question of the Day” posts)?

In case you are wondering why I only post math questions, it’s because I was a math major, so I am interested in the state of mathematical education.

(I am going to refer to both parent(s) and custodian(s) as parents for simplicity.)

Is it:

1. Their parents are not at home when they are doing their homework.

2. Their parents can’t do the problems.

3. Their parents are not interested in helping their children to do their homework.

4. The students are too lazy to do their own homework, so they want to get somebody else to do it for them.

5. Some other reason(s).

Clearly, numbers 2,3, and 4 are very disturbing if true.  #1 is also disturbing but an economic necessity in many cases. It would be interesting to see what other reasons there are.


13 Responses

  1. As a teacher I can tell you it’s a little bit of all of the above. At least they are asking questions, even if they are stupid ones. A lot of kids that don’t even bring a book home or do any homework.

  2. I think it’s a combination, Many of the parents of my 8th graders can’t help their kids because the algebra that I am teaching them is what they took in 10th grade, if they even took algebra at all. Yes I am teaching high school algebra 1 to 8th graders! It’s not at all like it was when they were in school. Also the general ed kids are really lazy , my kids special ed students are just freaking overwhelmed! And sometimes I am too, they (my special ed student)should be learning how to make change with out a calculator, and how to balance a checkbook but this is considered not a goal for them….please these kids are not going to use half of what I teach them in the job they end up doing for a living

  3. I think they spend most of their time on the Internet, and sometimes, they don’t even think before asking those questions, as they feel so much freedom doing anything on the web.

  4. @Maria:
    Yes, asking questions when you don’t know the answer is certainly better than not asking questions when you don’t know the answer.

    However, I should have pointed out in the post that most of the time they don’t even attempt to show what they have done – they ask for step by step solutions, indicating that they haven’t tried to work the problems themselves.

    If they don’t even bring their books home, they’re not serious about learning. Maybe they should take a field trip to a homeless shelter to show them a possible future.

  5. @kat:
    I’m pretty sure algebra was required when the parents were in school (it certainly was when I was in high school.)

    I don’t know why anyone would not be interested in learning how to make change without a calculator. Everybody has to deal with money, and learning how to avoid being ripped off should interest everyone.

    Maybe kids need to be shown more real life applications of algebra?

  6. @eunice:
    Good point about the Internet. Kids today are so spoiled regarding the Internet and stuff like mp3 players. They want the easiest way to get the answers.

    You always hear stories about kids doing homework and IMing 10 friends at the same time, or stories about kids who listen to their mp3 players all during class and even during tests.

  7. Boy this is very well thought out and presented. I see this in lots of kids, not only in math but in other areas. I’ve heard wild tails from other adults of how many students are at home alone while their parents are (not at work) but out with the latest girlfriend/boyfriend after the divorce…and the kids are on their own…and they fall through the cracks. Great heartfelt and thoughtful post. Good for you!

  8. @Robin:

    Good point about parents partying. I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe you should have to have a license to be a parent…

    On the other hand, I may be overly pessimistic (but I doubt it 😉 )

  9. […] Why do students ask so many stupid questions on the Internet? […]

  10. So you are a math major. Bully for you. You remind me of an instructor I once had who often said, ” I assume you all know about this matter so I won’t go into it.” Why in hell would we be attending his class if we already knew the subjest matter?

    Some one once broke down the word assume this way. When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.

    The only stupid question on any subject is the question that is not asked.

    None of us have a monoply on brains. All of us are ignorant on many subjects and one way to improve our knowlege is to ask questions about the subject we know little or nothing about.

    Lighten up and let these kids get the help they need anywhere they can, they sure as hell aren’t being taught in our public schools and at home.

    It is time to privatize our education system.

  11. Very valid points.

    However, and this is my fault for not making this clear:

    If you look at these posts. Many of them wanted step by step instructions and did not state exactly what methods they had tried. These students are clearly looking for free answers, and not learning how to do the problems.

  12. P.S. Many of these students also posted many similar problems. Getting other people to do all your homework for you is clearly CHEATING.

  13. […] Posted on July 18, 2008 by wigwam2theorem I finally really annoyed someone with my post on why students ask so many stupid questions on the Internet. (See today’s comment.) I’m surprised it took this long for someone to be really […]

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