I was looking at one of the problems from the new common core assessment for mathematics at the fourth-grade level. To keep from being sued, I will change the numbers, but it looked like this:

4,0_7
1, 35_ -
——–
2,_99

The student is to fill in the blanks. I *suppose* that the question is designed to get at the student’s understanding of number concepts, that if you have 7 minus something equals 9 then that something must be 8.

Remember that part in Freaky Friday where the mom exchanges bodies with her teenage daughter? The Algebra II teacher is telling her that she will need this information when she is an adult and the mom-in-the-daughter’s body says,

I can guarantee you that I will not need this.

As someone who uses math every single day of her life, I can guarantee you that I will never need to solve a problem like the one above, unless maybe I decide to play Sudoku. I’ve never actually played Sudoku, so maybe it doesn’t help with that, either.

A few minutes ago, out of idle curiosity, I wanted to solve a problem that was (.01* 2**42)/(1E5)

It took me about 10 seconds. I used Excel.

This isn’t to say that all of the common core test questions are bad – they aren’t, nor that the the underlying idea of teaching fewer concepts with deeper understanding of each one is a bad idea – it certainly isn’t. It also isn’t to say that you can judge a test just by how good the questions look on the face of them (you can’t). It is to say that perhaps common core has been over-hyped as teaching real-world math and critical thinking skills.

Another example of this over-hype is the lauding the new tests for not having any multiple choice questions. Here is another, again modified to keep me from being sued for copyright infringement.

Drag the results less than 1 to  Box A. Drag the results greater than 1 to Box B

——————-

|       A             |

——————-

—————-

|       B           |

—————–

Then you have a bunch of items like:

1 x  3/4

4 x 1/8

2  x  3/4

and so on.

Please explain to me how this is really different from:

1 x 3/4 is greater than 1

A) True

B) False

It might be a better question in that  young children might be more amused by dragging and dropping the answers into a box and thus more likely to pay attention, but as far as revealing a greater depth of understanding of mathematics, I just don’t see it.

Comments

One Response to “Underwhelmed with Common Core Assessment”

  1. isomorphismes on November 19th, 2013 1:53 am

    I laughed at the Freaky Friday reference.

    This reminds me of some “find the pattern” problems which always seemed to be more about psychology than finding “the” underlying pattern. At the time I would have just said “How do you know know that 1, 4, 10, 19, 31, … are the centred triangular numbers? Maybe some other sequence also begins that way.”

    Now knowing a bit more maths as an adult (https://www.simonsfoundation.org/science_lives_video/professor-john-w-milnor/?chapter=2) I can confidently say that sequences like 1, 1, 28, 2, 8, 6, 992, 1, 3, 2, 16256, 2, 16, …. really do happen even outside of “I just arbitrarily thought up a sequence that goes 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 7. Ha!”

    More on point, yes there is a strange tenacity by adult teachers in holding to their positions about what’s useful in “the real world”—taken to mean office work of some “general” type.

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