kitchen table math, the sequel: Are You Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

I came across this site that gives sample 4th and 8th grade test questions from the NAEP test. An educational journalist once told me that the NAEP test was the "gold standard".

Mathematics Report Card.

Take the tests and look at how many students didn't get the correct answers. Next, break into (mixed ability) groups and try to discover what goes on in grades K-3 math.


Anonymous said...

"14, 26, 38, ______ , ______

The numbers in the pattern above are increasing by 12. Which of these numbers is part of the pattern?"

well, thank you for telling me. Of course, that just kills the whole challenge of the pattern and might as well ask what 38 increased by 12 and increase it again


Anonymous said...

wow, many kids didn't get this despite the giveaway clue.

SteveH said...

"that just kills the whole challenge"

That was my thought too, but no! See how many got it wrong. Even after all of their work on patterns. Even after they TELL you the pattern. AND, it was multiple choice. These questions are exactly the sort of questions they like to ask in fuzzy math curricula.

What, exactly, do they do all day in school? I'm all for internet cameras in classrooms. This is why I don't like talking about discovery or understanding. It diverts the discussion away from basic competence.

Do you know what my son said in 4th or 5th grade (unprompted) about what goes on in his classes? "The kids do work and the teachers sit at their desks." Instead of the guide on the side, kids get the lump at the desk.

Anonymous said...

The first question just floored me:

Question 1: What number is 10 more than 5,237?

Fourth grade? And one in five got it wrong!?



SteveH said...

Scale scores are on a scale from 0 - 500. For 2007, the scale score for 4th grade math is 240. I was trying to find out how they calculated this number and came across this:

"NAEP score scales are created via Item Response Theory (IRT), and scale score distributions are estimated for groups of students."


Can anyone provide a simple explanation of this before I try to figure it out myself? It looks like what our state does for its tests. Our state also converts it again into a proficiency cutoff index (between 80 - 100%) which further hides the stinkingly bad raw percent correct numbers.

Therefore, everyone focuses on the percent improvement rather than the raw score. Darling little Johnnie improved 3 percent on his math test! Too bad his grade was a D-.

This reminds me of Everyday Math's "What's the One" unit. Students are supposed to figure out what the "one" or whole is that is used as the basis for calculating a percent. For education, the rule is to use the lower "one" if the scores are improving, but use the higher "one" when the numbers are getting worse.

Anonymous said...

8th grade is really no better.

"Question 5: At Jorge's local video store, "New Release" video rentals cost $2.50 each, and "Movie Classic" video rentals cost $1.00 each (including tax). On Saturday evening, Jorge rented 5 videos and spent a total of $8.00."

This problem can virtually be done by guessing in short order. There has to be more than one new, because the amount is even -- so the first guess would be two. Which is right.

I'm betting the classification would indicate this is algebra, but you need absolutely no algebra to answer this question. At least 3/4 got it right, but it's a sham question.

More frightening performance on basic geometry.

"Question 4: Three tennis balls are to be stacked one on top of another in a cylindrical can. The radius of each tennis ball is 3 centimeters. To the nearest whole centimeter, what should be the minimum height of the can?"

Admittedly, one needs to know the definition of radius and how to add. But you'd think by eighth grade they'd be able to do that. Fewer than one in five got full credit for the question.


SteveH said...

"I'm betting the classification would indicate this is algebra,"

That was my thought too, but the relatively high percent correct suggests that many students guessed and checked. I can't imagine that they solved two equations in two unknowns.

ChemProf said...

I wonder if that is why elementary school curriculum is so enamored of guess and check. If the only place they see "pre-algebra" is on state-mandated multiple-choice exams, then guess and check may be a reasonable strategy. I remember when I first took the SAT in 8th grade (another CTY person), I used it when I didn't quite know how to do a problem, and it can be faster. Of course, then the skills don't build they way they should, but if your only goal is to have your studetnts pass the state exam...

Anonymous said...

"guess and check may be a reasonable strategy."

Yes, if this came up in real life there's no way I'd be writing out formulae to figure it out. Ironically, the ones who actually went through the effort to write it out into a formula are probably some of those who got it wrong.

Does anyone know if the questions on the NJ ASK3 and ASK4 are this bad?


Lisa said...

If you only have to teach to the test, you don't need to teach algebra evidently.

Anonymous said...

MiaZagora said...

Anonymous said...
"14, 26, 38, ______ , ______

The 'correct' answer was 60.

38 + 12 = 50

30 + 10 + 8 + 2

40 + 8 + 2

48 + 2 = 50

50 was not one of the choices.

MiaZagora said...

Sorry...I didn't read very well -"which number is part of the pattern" not which number is next in the sequence. The correct answer was 62, which was one of the choices. I guess I need to go back to 4th grade!