I recently heard that undergraduates frequently do poorly on exam questions involving graphs. I spent some time strolling about the internet trying to understand why graphs might be a particularly tricky topic.
One site told me that a common mistake was conceptually jumping the gun. Ie people look at the shape and try to interpret it before looking at the other critical information that provides context. This potential problem stuck in my head because I could easily imagine how this could become very confusing, very quickly. Once an idea takes root, it’s hard to go back and start from scratch. During an exam when time, sleep, and sanity are all in short supply, students may not even think to go back and check – after all, they thought they understood and answered correctly! If this is what’s happening, it’s no wonder confused and distraught students come knocking at TA and instructor doors.
If you think this describes the trouble that YOU are having, then at least take heart that it’s a problem with a solution, even if it’s easier said than done. I made this two minute tutorial video to try to address this common mistake in a fun way.