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Types of Students Mistakes: Math and Science Subjects Research Paper

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Updated: May 17th, 2020


Students often make mistakes while responding to open-ended questions, especially in scientific subjects. These types of problems require them to construct individual responses instead of deciding on answers from a range of provided choices. This situation affects the manner in which the students react to questions. Various studies have shown that the ability of learners to respond to scientific problems satisfactorily depends on their understanding of the structure and content of the question. Besides, it hinges on the dispositions and skills that determine the demonstration of the right solutions and the ability to process the available scientific information. This research paper provides a miscue analysis of the common errors that students make while responding to open-ended questions in scientific subjects.

Common Errors Students make in answering Open-Ended Questions in Scientific Subjects

Anxiety and Procrastination

Various mistakes frequently arise from the manner in which learners react to questions that relate to math and science subjects. According to Pollitt and Ahmed, this state of affairs results in the generation of invalid answers due to a lack of sufficient evidence and information (1). One of the common errors students make in answering open-ended questions in scientific subjects is anxiety and procrastination. There is a tendency to become overwhelmed by the tasks set forth by the instructors. In this case, the students can delay answering the questions due to the inherent difficulty that prevents them from generating the correct responses (Pollitt and Ahmed 5).

Unclear Analysis

In addition, students fail to ensure a clear analysis of the open-ended questions. This situation has been evidenced in most science and math subjects as learners fail to show their understanding by evaluating the source material critically. As a result, the students end up providing solutions to twisted questions rather than the ones set. This set of circumstances prevents them from generating the expected solutions to math and science problems (Pollitt and Ahmed 5). Unclear analysis of open-ended questions also results in personalization. This phenomenon refers to a cognitive distortion in which some students are convinced that what the other learners say has a direct influence on their thoughts about the scientific subject in question. As a result, competition develops amongst the students as they try to prove who provides better solutions than the others.

Inadequate Scientific Evidence

Furthermore, de la Peña reveals that students often choose limited pieces of evidence from the available learning information (77). This problem indicates that the learners possess inadequate reading skills that can enable them to read the question comprehensively with a view of understanding the kind of solution it requires. Science and math subjects require technical solutions that demand the students to conduct detailed research on relevant content. Failure to gather adequate evidence of a given phenomenon compels the student to generate scanty answers. In other cases, some students offer individualized ideas without gathering any evidence from the available research materials.

De la Peña also reveals that some learners also provide sufficient scientific underpinning without deriving clear conclusions (77). Open-ended questions require the learners to link the gathered evidence to the conclusion. Failure to accomplish this objective affects the weight of the solution provided to the math or science problem. Evidence is a crucial aspect in the development of responses to math and science questions. It underpins various propositions that explain different phenomena in both learning and social environments (de la Peña 78). Scientific knowledge should also be supported by various theories and concepts that help in the generation of sufficient solutions open-ended questions in math and science subjects.

Inadequate Usage of Social Scientific Knowledge

The development of solutions to math and science questions demands the learner to understand the use of social science skills. However, most students lack this aspect (de la Peña, 80). There is a tendency to apply empirical concepts and theories in the wrong contexts. Most students do not distinguish the use of technical conceptions from usual academic writing. This situation easily creates ambiguity in the developed solutions. According to de la Peña, social scientific knowledge is a powerful tool in the creation of responses to open-ended questions in science and math subjects (de la Peña 80).

Unsubstantiated Conclusions

The derivation of unclear conclusions can be closely linked to poor planning and reading skills. Students often jump to conclusions without taking the time to read the given question. Open-ended questions require the student to order the work depending on the technicality of the provided problems. For instance, it is important to answer the easy questions first prior to handling those that are more challenging. In this manner, the learner is likely to gain more confidence in answering the more difficult problems.

Lack of Close Reading

Spalding reveals that many students are not accustomed to the generation of responses to questions that pertain to science and math subjects (24). As a result, they write a few lines to explain technical questions that require longer theoretical descriptions. This situation results in an insufficient presentation of scientific information. For instance, in problems involving algebra, a student can be interested in writing down the formulas that lead to the expected solutions rather than deriving the requiring algebraic expression. This situation results from the failure to read the given questions carefully. As a result, they present answers that are insufficient. In an exam scenario, this tendency leads to the loss of marks (Hoscheidt et al. 268).

Disconnection of Ideas

According to Hoscheidt et al., the understanding of concepts in science and math subjects hinges on the connection of different ideas with a view of bringing about simplicity (269). However, mistakes often arise from ambiguous connections between concepts and theories. Such mistakes are also accompanied by insufficient proof to underpin the intended responses to open-ended questions. Unfamiliarity with the provided open-ended question prompts the learner to present unclear information and conclusions. In this case, there is also a tendency to provide inconsistent workflow as the development of ideas is limited (Hoscheidt et al. 269). The answers hardly show any information that supports the conclusions. To avoid this kindly of errors, the instructors should provide clear guidelines and practice with a view of developing the abilities of the students to respond appropriately to questions in math and science subjects.

Misuse of Verbs

Lastly, students overlook the use of verbs in structuring their answers to the provided open-ended questions. According to de la Peña, the evaluation of open-ended solutions is highly linked to the verbs that refer to the content in question (68). For instance, learners should clearly understand the meaning of some verbs such as labels, define, identify, explain, describe, state, and list, among others (Hoscheidt et al. 268). The use of the wrong verbs to explain a particular scientific concept can lead to the distortion of information. This situation creates a sort of confusion that can eventually result in misinterpretation (Hoscheidt et al. 270).

Possible Misinterpretations and Factors that affect their thinking while answering Math and Science Subjects

Various possible misinterpretations and factors affect the thinking of students while responding to math and science subjects. For instance, Lin et al. reveal that learners often misinterpret estimations and patterns in mathematics (10). Many students do not attain the required skills in handling scientific problems. This situation results from the failure to emphasize the basic principles of math and science subjects in schools. For instance, it has been revealed that problems involving algebra demand higher-order reasoning. However, the learners rarely attain this level of thinking that is necessary for the derivation of effective scientific solutions (Lin et al. 12). Numerous researchers believe that most students fail to comprehend the underlying principles through traditional drilling practices. This situation results in heightened memorization that harbors the understanding of the fundamental scientific concepts (de la Peña 76).

Besides, nervousness and pressure can lead a student to the commitment of silly errors that can lead to the generation of inadequate solutions to open-ended questions. The human brain is highly programmed to make decisions depending on the existing conditions and knowledge (Pollitt and Ahmed 5). As a result, a stressful environment can interfere with the thinking abilities of the students. The phenomenon is known as cognitive distortion in psychology. In this case, the brain persuades the individual to believe that a correct procedure or solution is untrue. According to de la Peña, such misconstructions underpin the development of the deleterious thoughts (76). This situation can lead to misinterpretation than can further result in the provision of answers to self-generated problems rather than the ones provided by the instructor. Therefore, the student should read the questions carefully to completely understand the content required in the expected solution (Lin et al.,.15).

Specific Scientific Classifications of the Types of Errors, Incorrect Answers Students make while answering Open-Ended Questions during Exams

Hoscheidt et al. reveal that exam conditions differ from other writing environments in aspects such as speed, planning, and pressure, among others (237). This situation significantly affects the way in which the candidates arrive at solutions depending on their understanding of concepts and cognitive skills. According to de la Peña, the types of errors and incorrect answers that learners make while handling open-ended questions can be categorized scientifically into four groups (79). The first classification of errors involves omission. In such cases, de la Peña explains that students develop a tendency to overlook some key concepts that are essential for the derivation of sufficient solutions to scientific problems (79). For instance, a student can skip instructions, thereby affecting the final solution of the scientific task set in the exam.

The omission can also occur where a student leaves some critical terms that explain the scientific phenomenon. Hoscheidt et al. posit that math and science concepts are explained using various technical terms (238). The exclusion of scientific terminologies can result in the loss of meaning and misinterpretation. This situation can be caused by memory fallibility, thereby excluding important details. The second scientific classification of errors and incorrect solutions entails addition. According to Spalding, this category of errors entails the inclusion of procedures, terminologies, and/or principles in the wrong contexts (25). Scientific information is explained using various theories and concepts that help students understand the underlying dispositions of a given phenomenon.

According to Hoscheidt et al., other errors occur due to misinformation. These types of mistakes occur due to the loss of certain mental faculties that lead to the inappropriate recall of information (239). In an exam situation, numerous psychologists have attested that some students have a tendency to forget the specific details of certain scientific concepts. In this case, recalling such information takes a considerably long time, which results in amplified disremembering (Hoscheidt et al. 240). This situation causes a memory error that can eventually lead to unanswered questions in the exam. The source of misinformation can be the unconscious transmission of knowledge that can result in misrepresentation of theories and concepts in the wrong scientific context. Lastly, errors can result from ‘misordering.’ In this situation, the learner places information in the wrong order regardless of its use in the right context. This set of circumstances can lead to confusion, thereby resulting in the loss of marks in the examination (Hoscheidt et al. 241).

According to Neisser, the types of incorrect answers presented by students vary depending on the types of errors and the factors that affect their cognitive abilities (14). For instance, pre-systematic answers can occur when the learner fails to recall a certain scientific rule. In this case, the learner cannot explain why a theory or concept is chosen for a specific context. Other incorrect answers arise from systematic errors due to the application of a wrong concept (Spalding 22). Lastly, wrong solutions can result from post-systematic mistakes that are committed when the learner uses the same scientific principle consistently to describe particular solutions in an exam scenario.


The miscue essay critically analyses the types of mistakes students make while answering open-ended questions in math and science subjects. It is evident that such errors arise from a number of factors such as anxiety, procrastination, unclear analysis, the provision of inadequate scientific evidence, lack of close reading, disconnection of ideas, and/or misuse of verbs, among others. Such sources of mistakes often lead to misinterpretation of information. This situation can lead to failure in the accomplishment of academic goals, especially in examination settings. However, the success of the students in the accomplishment of academic objectives remains at the stake of the instructors. At the outset, the students should be provided with fair chances to handle math and science questions under proper guidelines.

The instructor should also offer them an opportunity to discuss the open-ended questions with a view of solving problems such as the use of verbs. This practice demonstrates close reading skills that are equally important in the generation of responses to scientific problems. Besides, the teachers should train the learners to recheck their solutions to math and science problems. They should learn to examine whether the solutions provided fit the context of the question. Lastly, emphasis should be placed on the presentation of complete and comprehensible responses that are supported by adequate scientific evidence. Consequently, the students should possess adequate research skills to help them gather adequate information for both knowledge and examination purposes. This state of events will result in the presentation of a clear association between scientific concepts and theories. In this manner, most of the abovementioned mistakes in answering open-ended questions in math and science subjects will be reduced significantly.

Works Cited

dela Peña, Salvador. “Analysis of Errors in the Essays Written by Math, Science and Engineering Faculty.” Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research 6.1 (2008): 76-85. Print.

Hoscheidt, Siobhan, Kevin LaBar, Lee Ryan, Jake Jacobs and Lynn Nadel. “Encoding negative events under stress: high subjective arousal is related to accurate emotional memory despite misinformation exposure.” Neurobiology of learning and memory 112.1 (2014): 237-247. Print.

Lin, Jimmy, Dennis Quan, Vineet Sinha, Karun Bakshi, David Huynh, Boris Katz and David Karge. What makes a good answer? The role of context in question answering, 2003. Web.

Neisser, Ulric. Cognitive Psychology: Classic Edition. East Sussex, FA: Psychology Press, 2014. Print.

Pollitt, Alastair and Ayesha Ahmed. , 2001. Web.

Spalding, Victoria. , 2009. Web.

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