kitchen table math, the sequel: 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

how it works

I see all kinds of people have joined - feel free to blog away!

fyi, you don't have to "join" in order to comment on posts.

sample SAT


I think the SAT math test is way harder today than it was back when I took it.

I've just this moment finished the 1st sample test in The Official SAT Study Guide. There were zillions of questions I had never seen before, nearly all of them having to do with functions.

(it wasn't zillions. it seemed like zillions.)

Obviously, I know nothing about functions.


I got 37 correct, 9 incorrect, for a raw score of 35, which translates to a range of 540 - 620.


If I'd been taking the test for real I would have scored somewhere between 600 - 650. I made "careless errors" I wouldn't have made with more adrenalin (and less autism-spiked cortisol) coursing through my system.

I also would have remembered to use my calculator.

Plus I would have used a test-taking strategy or two.

I completely forgot until I reached the 4th section that the plan with the SAT is:

  • do the easy questions first
  • use strategic guess-and-check throughout to eliminate obviously wrong answers

Instead I raced through the test, taking each problem as it came, and attempting to figure out how to solve it if even I'd never seen the thing before.


The good news is that I think it's fair to say I know Algebra 1 cold.

And I'm not bad on simple geometry.

I also know enough math (whatever that means) that I was able to figure out, on the fly, how to do a couple of problem types I'd never done before.

Nevertheless, the only way anyone's getting through this test is by dint of huge practice:

Section 3: 20 questions / 25 minutes
Section 6: 18 questions / 25 minutes (10 of the 18 are "student -produced response" - i.e., not multiple choice)
Section 9: 16 questions / 20 minutes

To do well on the SAT Math, you have to have reached automaticity for virtually every problem you see. There's no time to think or problem-solve; you have to be solving the question one second after you've finished reading the question.

That's an exaggeration, but not by much. I was able to scrape together a few minutes' thinking time left over from problems that took only a few seconds to do. But no more than a few.

Bottom line: the SAT is the exact opposite of everything the NCTM stands for.

Do we know how kids who've been in constructivist curricula in high school are doing on the SAT?


I've always thought SAT tutoring is a waste of money, which it may be (I've got some interesting studies to post).

However, after taking one practice test I can see where SAT tutoring for students who knew algebra 1, algebra 2, and geometry fairly well but hadn't practiced to automaticity could raise scores substantially.

Students definitely need to learn and practice test-taking strategies, too. No question.

That's another thing.

Back when I took the SAT, there were no practice tests. There wasn't even review.

You walked in, sat down, took the test.

I'd bet the ranch that the existence of the test prep industry has changed the tests.


I've completed Lesson 48 in Saxon Algebra 2, which is the second book in the "Saxon Math trilogy":

  • Saxon Algebra 1
  • Saxon Algebra 2
  • Advanced Mathematics
Geometry is integrated throughout the 3 books.

So: I have an SAT score in the low 600s after Saxon Algebra 1.

I think I'll take another sample test midway or perhaps 2/3 of the way through Algebra 2.


College Board list of math topics covered on SAT
sample SAT test
SAT test
get your recentered SAT scores right here

Barry's here!


hacking Blogger

Is there a simple way to customize Blogger templates?

I like this "skin," but the spacing between posts is confusing.

I think I need to do at least two things:

  • add white space between posts
  • reduce the font size on "posted by Catherine"

If anyone can explain this in 50 words or less, that would be great.

compare and contrast


....the top third of Singaporean students score, on average, in the top 10th percentile of students in the 38 countries tested on the TIMSS-R.

What the United States Can Learn From Singapore's World-Class Mathematics System
(and what Singapore can learn from the United States):
An Exploratory Study


...the very top top American kids are scoring about the 75th percentile on international studies. So we know our top performing kids are doing very well.

Mike McGill
New York state Superintendent of the Year

oldies but goodies:
more Singapore Math

Mike McGill


what is this?


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas day 2006

Christopher, who is 12, wanted to get me a Christmas present of his own choosing this year. We both agreed that the best bet would be a book, so Ed took him to Barnes and Noble, where he found just the thing.

"It will make you laugh," he kept saying. "It's funny. It will be funny to you."

He was right.

back in business

I've done it!

kitchen table math, the sequel

I'm thinking group blog this time around, so I'll start sending out invitations shortly.

In the meantime, since it's the week between Christmas and New Year's, a period for which I have declared, but failed to observe, a moratorium on "talking about education" as Christopher puts it, I'm drawing my inaugural post from a Times article on music & the brain ($):

Dr. Levitin dragged me over to a lab computer to show me what he was talking about. “Listen to this,” he said, and played an MP3. It was pretty awful: a poorly recorded, nasal-sounding British band performing, for some reason, a Spanish-themed ballad.

Dr. Levitin grinned. “That,” he said, “is the original demo tape of the Beatles. It was rejected by every record company. And you can see why. To you and me it sounds terrible. But George Martin heard this and thought, ‘Oh yeah, I can imagine a multibillion-dollar industry built on this.’

“Now that’s musical genius.”

Music of the Hemispheres

Damn straight.