lim joe→∞

Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

The “unfailable” test

Posted by forumjoe on August 22, 2012

Disclaimer: Some kids still failed!*

Background: My Year 8 Modified Maths class is a class of 11 kids who really struggle in mainstream maths classes.  Numeracy issues, learning issues, concentration issues and motivational issues abound in these kids and god I love ’em.  They’re the best benchmark for whether activities are engaging or because they’ll definitely tell you what they think, and they’ve got very high standards for quality.

They don’t want to sit reassessments, they do bare minimum homework and class work so many reassessment opportunities are not taken advantage of.  The assessment for each unit has to be comprehensive and self-managable. I’m sick of being helpful and avuncular with these kids! I’m trying to get them away from asking “how do I do it” for every single question on the test.

The Test:

So here’s a test I created.  Within the assessment itself, it steps the students through the methods and techniques.  This is AFTER we’ve been studying this stuff for a couple of weeks, so they really just need a reminder.  Most of them really enjoyed the test and said it was “easy” (even though they found the unit “hard”).

It could be argued that this process takes too much independent thought away from the students.  Is it really an assessment if it tells them how to do it in the previous sentence?   We’re not assessing if they can remember how to do it, we’re really assessing how well they can follow instructions.

It could also be argued that the instructions are too complex and can not be followed by students with literacy issues. This is true, and I’m not really sure how to fix this. I want to make the instructions Hemingway-esque, but I also want to make sure they’re explicit. I think I failed at this, because I still got kids asking questions. So in short, I like the method of instructions on tests, but I dislike the implementation in this case.

My rationale for giving such detailed instructions is that they’re still demonstrating understanding, and that’s the important thing.  I still had students struggle to understand how to do the process, and I think that the marks they received are an accurate reflection of their understanding (which is the whole point).  None took me up on a further reassessment opportunity. 😦

So here’s the document.  I’d love to read your feedback in the comments. At the risk of being vainglorious, I will state that my disclaimer was just to reduce my boast. I really did have no kids fail this test!
Please note: The pagination stuffed up a bit in the import to scribd, so ignore it if the paging is weird.

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6 Responses to “The “unfailable” test”

  1. Did I miss okra in your post? 🙂 Hi Joe! I like the test items, and there were a lot of them. How much time did they have to take the test? I like your giving the drawings of cups and nails and asking them to do the same in the next section. I love this: “… they’ve got very high standards for quality.” Yes they do!!

    Well, it’s a treat for me to feature your post on my blog, Joe: http://fawnnguyen.com/2012/08/30/math-blogger-initiation-week-2.aspx Keep up the good work and happy blogging! Fawn

    • forumjoe said

      Thanks Fawn, it’s a treat for me to be featured on your post. 😉
      How long did they have? It’s a one hour period, so by the time they get set up and sorted out, it’s 55 minutes of testing. It’s a long time for these kids to concentrate in one block and the quality clearly deteriorated towards the end. I got some great drawings of dinosaurs though.

  2. xiousgeonz said

    I think havingthem draw really helps… how did the jump from just cups of nails to recognizing that x’s and y’s can’t be mingled go? I’d think that this would also help with the issue some of my guys have with telling me that X + 3 is four because “the teacher told me, if there’s no number, the X is one.”

    • forumjoe said

      Yeah, that’s still a problem I have, though it has been minimised by the continual reiteration of “cups and envelopes” thinking. They know that x+3 means ONE CUP not ONE NAIL

  3. xiousgeonz said

    Oh. Taking independent thought away from the students? Give me a break! Those “independent thoughts” are usually “What does this mean ?!?!?!? What am I supposed to do ?!?!?” … which is fine, if you actually expect to be able to answer those questions but I bet lots of your kiddos are more accustomed to not being able to and they get stuck there.

  4. […] I’ve joined the “twitterblogosphere” which means I’m seeing more mathy blogs, and I really liked this one: https://joeapproachesinfinity.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/the-unfailable-test/  […]

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