kitchen table math, the sequel: State Tests

Friday, March 28, 2008

State Tests

The St Paul Pioneer Press recently published a sample test for the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment II. The MCAII Sample Test covers grades 3-11.

Reading: The reading selections appear to be all actual newspaper articles. Check out the 3rd grade selections on pages 3-4. Does your 3rd grader have the background knowledge and the reading ability understand an article entitled "Of 1200 Toys Tested For Lead, 35 Percent Had Lead: Coalition Releasing Consumer Guide Today"? "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a level of 40 ppm of lead as the maximum that should be allowed in children's products..." Not to mention how much sleep your child is going to lose if she does happen to understand it! And I always thought newspaper articles were aimed at the 8th grade level. Silly me.

Math: The typical potpourri of too many topics, heavy emphasis on probability and patterns, and advanced topics before the basics are mastered. Pick a page at random and see if you can tell what grade level it is. A closer look reveals some real zingers. For example, check out problem 9 in the 5th grade section on page 29. You see a visual of two pies. The apple pie is divided in to 5 pieces and 3 are shaded. The peach pie is divided into 4 pieces and 3 are shaded.

You are instructed to "[u]se the figures" to answer the question.

The question: Raphael's mom made 2 pies for the family. If they ate 3/5 of the apple pie and 3/4 of the peach pie, how much more peach pie was eaten than apple pie?

Great, as long the visuals are omitted! Can someone tell me how the pictures can be used to solve this problem? Seriously, I'd love to know. They seem to me to actually obstruct any thought process that might lead to the correct answer.


Lsquared said...

" Can someone tell me how the pictures can be used to solve this problem? Seriously, I'd love to know."

I'd love to know that all 5th graders could solve it (or even 6th). That would be quite promising. However, the question you asked:

You can do the common denominator thing graphically: split the fourths into 5 subsections, and the fifths into 4 subsections each. Voila, an equivalent problem about 20ths.

VickyS said...

Thanks! It wouldn't have occurred to me to do it that way. Does seem like a lot of extra work though, doesn't it.

lgm said...

The suggestion seems reasonable for grade 5 basic students. I would expect that advanced and average would not need to draw, as long as addition of unlike fractions was covered before the test (my district starts in gr. 3 with a concrete approach, then goes to pictorial w/higher values of denominator in gr. 4, then reviews the entire unit in gr. 5.; most students do not grasp the concept until gr. 5).

I also like the clear wording of the problem, as compared to some of the fraction problems on NY's Gr. 5 tests. (#14 on the Grade 5 Sample Book 1 for example).

Ross Isenegger said...

Was it clear that the pies were the same shape? If not, the answer could be anything. This is one of the drawbacks of circular models for fractions.

Professional statisticians have no time for pie graphs - preferring rectangular models.