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outsmarting the tests

Just caught a funny thread at WhatDoesThisMean that reminded me of something I'd been planning to post:

Barry Garelick: One problem in a 2nd grade math text asks the students to compare another classroom to yours and tell if it is bigger. It fails to define what is meant by bigger: more volume, more floor space, more seats? Of course, kids will come up with various answers to which the teachers will be delighted—just what they learned in ed school, there's more than one right answer.

Steve H:The silver lining of Everyday Math, which my son uses in school, is that he gets lots of practice with vague or trick questions. I don't want him to be unprepared later on when his math ability is tested with these stupid questions.

That's been one of my issues: how much of this Trick Question stuff does Christopher have to be able to do to look like he's getting with the program on fuzzy math?

Carolyn has already started to talk about this.

I think it was shortly before the TONYSS, which I was intensely nervous about, that Christopher was telling us about some open-ended, mathematical reasoning-type questions he'd had to do on last year's test.

I asked him how he'd managed one of them, and he said, 'I looked for a pattern.'

That jump-started my brain, and we came up with a Standard Verbal Explanation he was to write down for any fuzzy problem he couldn't actually do:

I looked for a pattern, and then I used a strategy of guess and check to see if my pattern was right.

We had him memorize this line and recite it back to us a few times.

Now that you can get points for wrong answers, we figure a core test-taking skill is going to be getting partial credit for using the lingo.

p.s.

I'm serious.

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I'm laughing myself sick here!

PS I know you're serious!!!

PPS That's part of why it's so funny!!!

-- CarolynJohnston - 27 Jun 2005

I'll be stealing that for sure.

Also, there's a math article on OpinionJournal.com. I'm not sure if it's subscription or not. It has to do with the NCTM and politically correct math.

-- SusanS - 27 Jun 2005

Absolutely!

STEAL THIS BOOK.

Yup, I'm serious alright.

Susan S--yes!

That's Diane Ravitch, right!

I think they've now got it free, so I'll link to it. (It was subscription only last week.)

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

I'd love to know if other professional writers are as repelled by fuzzy math as I am.

It's the language.

When you write for a living, you really do develop hyper-acute 'word hearing'--

And the words constructivists use are bad news.

It's not that the writing is bad, although it usually is.

It's that the writing is dishonest.

OTOH, they're incredibly easy to mime. Christopher's only 10, and he can already do it.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

Another thing: I made sure to put in enough 'kid words' so that the graders wouldn't smell a rat.

That's why I had him use the word 'right' instead of 'correct.'

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

There's a hilarious article in the NYTIMES SAT Essay Test Rewards Length And Ignores Errors of Fact on this kind of thing.

I think I'll put it up front--

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

Now I have two great tips for the kids! Write ad nauseum and memorize a couple of fuzzy sentences for math and you'll be fine. This is really hilarious. You almost need a separate page.

-- SusanS - 27 Jun 2005

You know, that's not a bad idea.

We're trying to figure out all the extra pages we need (pages that will be 'headlined' up front) & a page telling parents & kids how to defeat the tests would be a good one.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

Speaking of which, we have to get some kids chiming in here.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Jun 2005

Ben would be happy to chime in with a few swear words.

He's been fighting us tooth and nail about math and reading the last few nights. Tonight he told me that math is for sissies -- and that's the nicest thing he said about it.

-- CarolynJohnston - 28 Jun 2005

Christopher hasn't been quite as crazed lately.

He'll go on his standard rant, but then he gets over it pretty quickly, and it doesn't last as long.

Though today, of course, I did get the whole long sob story about what a nightmare last summer was.

-- CatherineJohnson - 28 Jun 2005

WebLogForm
Title: outsmarting the tests
TopicType: WebLog
SubjectArea: TipsAndTricks
LogDate: 200506271344