EducationPedagogyPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: What’s in a Name?

How important is a name? We spend an awful lot of time teaching and learning the names for things before a concept it taught, is this time spent wisely? On Monday I saw this XKCD comic and I knew that it should be the theme for my pop quiz.

XKCD comic Winter

So here it is folks my question of the day: Is time better spent in a class teaching the how and why of things?  Give a student a good mental image of a concept and then when a student is able understand it and is looking for a way to express this knowledge we say, “You know what? That thing has a name, it is called ___.”

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (ET).

Featured Image by Wm Schwartz

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Jennifer teaches science in a public school in Pennsylvania. She lives there with her husband and two dogs.


  1. January 29, 2014 at 11:18 pm —

    Boy that is a good question. When doing “music appreciation” type classes there is a whole lot of terminology and specialized vocabulary that we have to get students to learn in order to talk successfully about, oh, 800 years’ worth of music.

    Unfortunately in a lot of these cases explaining the how and why of things can be a challenge since these classes are usually for non-musicians and thus don’t require any degree of musical literacy. This means technical definitions of concepts like major vs. minor mode or chromatic harmony are useless–students instead have to get a “feel” for them though listening to a number of examples.

    On the other hand, there are some terms that are immediately intuitive upon hearing an example, but whose technical definitions can actually lead to confusion. A lot of students have trouble with distinctions between the definitions of terms like ‘imitation’ vs ‘repetition’, but have little trouble identifying an imitative piece (like a fugue) as opposed to a repetitive one.

  2. January 31, 2014 at 5:41 pm —

    This question was stewing in the back of my mind as I was teaching about solutions, which can be a very vocab heavy topic with terms that are very similar the first time you hear them
    . For example solution, solute, solvent, concentration, concerntrated, dilute and so on. I think it might be an interesting exercise to try and teach it without the terminology up front and add the terms as we go along.

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