kitchen table math, the sequel: PWN the SAT Math Guide Review

## Thursday, September 13, 2012

### PWN the SAT Math Guide Review

The main idea of the book is that "The SAT is not a math test." The implication is that the reader already does well in math and probably wants to get above 600 on the SAT (about 13 errors out of 54). Although students at all levels can learn from the book, it doesn't spend much time on the basics. This is a book for those who want to see what it is about their traditional math education that is not going to get the job done in time. In fact, the SAT specifically tries to get you to solve problems using your traditional (too slow) tools. This means that many of the problems are special cases. Instead of solving equations for x and y, you may have to solve for x+y. Instead of simplifying, you have to know how to manipulate equations into other forms. Instead of pulling out nPr and nCr, it may be easier to revert back to basic counting principles or listing all of the choices. The book does a good job of explaining these other non-traditional approaches, especially plug-in and backsolve.

"PWN the SAT" is not filled up with full practice tests. You are referred to the Blue Book for those, but it gives you a breakdown of each Blue Book question on each test. This is invaluable. You have to practice with real questions and timing, but you need to have a way to analyze what you did right and what you did wrong. The book does, however, give you many practice questions and four 20-question drills at the end. It took me less than a week, a few hours here and there, to do every question with follow-up analysis.

One interesting section is on how to "Be Nimble". I wish he would expand on that because I think you can codify the process better. The idea is that those who automatically dive into a traditional math approach may not have the quickness to come up with alternate approaches. However, I had cases where I immediately knew how to do the problem with a traditional approach (perhaps a little slowly), but spent too much time looking for the shortcut. "Nimble" (changing directions) takes time and that extra time has to be built up from other problems. It would be nice to see a section on how to be faster on the easier problems. These are things like immediately converting from one side to another for a 30-60-90 right triangle. It's easier to be nimble if you have extra time.

I highly recommend this book. Given that you are starting at a reasonable score level, you don't need anything more than this book and the official Blue Book. Beware of third-party tests. You can't "PWN the SAT" using proxy tests. You need to dive right in with the real thing.

Catherine Johnson said...

Instead of solving equations for x and y, you may have to solve for x+y. Instead of simplifying, you have to know how to manipulate equations into other forms. Instead of pulling out nPr and nCr, it may be easier to revert back to basic counting principles or listing all of the choices.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

That pretty much sums up my one-year experience of dealing with SAT math.

In a nutshell.

Catherine Johnson said...

Agree on 'how to be nimble,' too ---