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A Math Test That's Rotten To the Common Core

timothy posted about a year ago | from the two-trains-leave-chicago-with-opposite-polarity dept.

Math 663

theodp writes " The Common Core State Standards Initiative," explains the project's website, ""is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt." Who could argue with such an effort? Not Bill Gates, who ponied up $150 million to help git-r-done. But the devil's in the details, notes Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss, who offers up a ridiculous Common Core math test for first graders as Exhibit A, which also helps to explain why the initiative is facing waning support. Explaining her frustration with the intended-for-5-and-6-year-olds test from Gates Foundation partner Pearson Education, Principal Carol Burris explains, "Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says 'part I know,' and then a full coffee cup labeled with a '6' and, under it, the word, 'Whole.' Students are asked to find 'the missing part' from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?" The 6-year-old first-grader who took the test didn't get it either, and took home a 45% math grade to her parents. And so the I'm-bad-at-math game begins!"

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How hard can that possibly be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311355)

Question 1: You see 5 pennies, the total in the cup is 6, so the missing part is 1 (penny). How hard can that possibly be?

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (4, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#45311377)

Well when there isn't an explanation of what is being asked and the test was written by the same person that puts the iconography in airport bathrooms....

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (5, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#45311411)

The question is clearly ridiculous. The problem lies there and solely there though, unlike as the article suggests. Expecting 5 or 6 year olds to be able to do basic addition and subtraction of small quantities of physical items is not a problem at all –that's exactly what I'd expect a 5 or 6 year old to be able to do. Writing crappy questions like pearson has is absolutely a problem though.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45311447)

Needs Biilg to do one of his famous rants on who ever is in charge of this

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (0)

alantus (882150) | about a year ago | (#45311745)

Writing crappy questions like pearson has is absolutely a problem though.

Give him a break, after all this is the same guy that made Windows ME.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45311475)

Question 1: You see 5 pennies, the total in the cup is 6, so the missing part is 1 (penny). How hard can that possibly be?

If you see five, and there are six more in the cup, then the total is eleven. If only one is missing, then which one?

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (5, Funny)

comrade1 (748430) | about a year ago | (#45311707)

People, people, you need to step back and reexamine your basic assumptions about the question. They are not 'pennies', but rather 'oreos'. -folds arms in triumph

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (5, Funny)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#45311781)

But it's obvious the cup is full of liquid, therefore the answer must be 787. That being the number of degrees required to melt zinc, which is clearly what is missing.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

BinBoy (164798) | about a year ago | (#45311895)

Question 1: You see 5 pennies, the total in the cup is 6, so the missing part is 1 (penny). How hard can that possibly be?

If you see five, and there are six more in the cup, then the total is eleven. If only one is missing, then which one?

The answer isn't listed. Whether there are 11 or 6, they're all accounted for so 0 coins are missing. (Assuming they're coins)

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311897)

Anon for modding.

I see 5 pennies.
I see a teacup with a label 6.

Is it 6 pennies to buy a cup of tea? Is there supposed to be 6 cups of tea? Is it a 5 cent coffee in a tea cup? Mommy would scream at me if I was putting pennies in her fine china...

In my opinion the missing part of the equation is an actual question.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#45311545)

MONEY can't buy you excellence, in a corrupted society.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311873)

And nothing spells corruption like greed.

Interesting conundrum, though. With people who exhibit excellence, you often see them exhibit their own greed. Seems money can actually buy you excellence, where such people only care about money.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | about a year ago | (#45311569)

There do not appear to be any coins in the cup. It appears to be full of liquid with the internal liquid level line.
There is a number 6 under the cup, it does not say 6 coins. Why would there be coins in cap anyways? You put liquid in cup.

"Find the missing part?" is a bad question. If anything it should ask about coins, not parts.
There are no parts missing all the coins are whole so is the cup.

The whole thing is not clear and misleading.

You are assuming the question is asking about the sum of coins. That is not indicated by the question.
Having to make assumptions about a question is very very wrong when it is not a written test where one can explain the assumptions one has to add to a question.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311619)

Ridiculous. You have five out of six, so the remaining part is 1/6. That makes at least as much sense.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (4, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | about a year ago | (#45311687)

Then just ask "what is 6 minus 5". Why make the question ridiculous?

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (2)

Skiron (735617) | about a year ago | (#45311855)

Exactly. Just teach kids maths. I guess it is all down to the stupid assumptions (excuses) that PC people have about the kid that can't learn (dslyx... or however you spell it) or try to make it interesting involving drink and food. Load of bollocks.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (2)

baffled (1034554) | about a year ago | (#45311869)

Reading your response, I realized the formulation of the question forces the student to deal with not only icons or only numbers, but rather they have to deal with both. That is, they see five pennies, and see one cup. But, they need to reason the 1 cup can hold 6 pennies, then perform the calculation. It seems the strange part of the problem - that it mixes icons and numbers - might precisely be why it was formulated as such.

There are even more abstractions that need to be dealt with than that - they have to associate the cup that can hold 6 pennies is what is considered to be 'whole', and they need to recognize the 'missing' part will exclude 'part I know'. Whether this is a sound approach or not, I don't know - but I can understand, it being so different from traditional mathematics, it would ruffle some feathers.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (3, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#45311697)

Buy you're wrong. The answer is 1 penny plus 1 cup. That's why you always need to be explicit with units, to avoid making the mistake of thinking it's merely just one penny.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (2)

Lumpio- (986581) | about a year ago | (#45311715)

Why would you put pennies in a coffee cup...?

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

seededfury (699094) | about a year ago | (#45311725)

I understood question 1 only after seeing question 5.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

tricorn (199664) | about a year ago | (#45311799)

The only problem with question 1 is that the "whole" is indicated as a coffee cup.

It's obvious that subtraction is being taught as "the full (whole) amount" minus "the part you know" equals "the hidden (missing) part" (or at least one way of thinking about subtraction problems can be thought of that way).

Some of the other questions are poorly worded as well, but Q1 is really bad.

There's nothing wrong with having tests where some of the problems are "too hard" for the level being tested, tests should be useful as diagnostics, exploring what you DON'T know. It should be totally normal to get a 50% on a test, that just shows what still needs to be taught. There's been a lot of research on computerized adaptive tests, that's what should be used, not testing for failure.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (4, Informative)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#45311863)

It's hard because the people writing the test have no experience writing for an audience.

When you write for an audience, you quickly come to understand that things you think are obvious aren't obvious to everyone, and that any loose or fuzzy choice of words adds ambiguity. It's the problem of self anchoring [lesswrong.com] and illusion of transparency [lesswrong.com] .

Specifically in the case of the test:

Test modes are introduced with only a brief explanation and no worked examples for clarity.

"Find the missing part for exercises 1 and 2" is weak, non-specific, and ambiguous. "Part" has connotations of a physical piece that completes a whole (like a puzzle piece, or the broken handle of a cup), but is used to describe a grouping. The presentation uses two disparate representations of a group: 5 pennies, versus a cup labelled "6". The captions "part I know" and "whole" seem to have nothing to do with the pictures - the 5 pennies isn't a "part", and the cup is a "whole" object, but why is it labelled 6? The cup is non-sequitur to the question, and cups hold fungible materials while the pennies are enumerated. And to drive that last part home, the cup is shown "filled" with liquid. Or is it partially filled? And is the fact that it's partially filled somehow related to the question?

Here's a reworked example that's a little better. (Could be better - I didn't give spend a lot of time.)

For the next two questions, we will show you something on the left and something on the right. Choose the answer which, when added to the thing on the left, makes it the same as the thing on the right.

Example: [left: Square containing 3 circles] [right: Square containing 4 circles]
[list of answers, with circle marked correct].

Question 1:

Show 5 smaller cups (shot-glass sized) filled with a dark liquid. Show a measuring cup with lines labelled 1-7, and filled to level 6 with a dark liquid.

Question: How much more ink is needed on the left to make the amount of ink on the right?

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (4, Insightful)

skywire (469351) | about a year ago | (#45311867)

Well, sure, you were able to take what has to be one of the most pathetic examples of muddiness I've ever seen, and by a rather sophisticated exercise of elimination of possibilities, construe what must have been the intent of its creator. That was a much more difficult problem than the arithmetic problem that it was intended to represent, and you are no 5-year-old.

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about a year ago | (#45311891)

Way of them, so hard your speak?

(Translation: How hard would it have been for them to phrase the question the way you did?)

Re:How hard can that possibly be? (1)

sI4shd0rk (3402769) | about a year ago | (#45311901)

More silly multiple choice tests that accomplish... absolutely nothing; much like all of our other tests.

Outsourcing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311361)

The test was written by a non-native speaker of English, right?

Re:Outsourcing? (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about a year ago | (#45311793)

Close. I'm guessing it was a lawyer. In TFA they complain that they're also teaching first graders how to "take a test." I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I do wish they'd focus more time on teaching kids how to study for tests. (Maybe not first graders, but later on.) That's something I had to pick up on my own in college because no one in 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school, ever bothered to go over that.

poor question.. but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311369)

The answer is D.

But it's REALLY bad.

Re:poor question.. but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311433)

Why is "whole" written under the cup? Why the answer would be D ?

Re:poor question.. but... (1)

fazig (2909523) | about a year ago | (#45311617)

Because 6 is the "whole" number.

The equation would be:1+1+1+1+1 + x = 6; solve for x.

The misleading thing is that the '6' is on a cup and not in the form of six pennies.

Other than that I don't fully understand the fuzz about this. I've had questions in exams that wouldn't allow me to solve the problem from elementary school up towards my masters degree. Sometimes there are mistakes, for me it was that a vital information was missing to solve the problem. The difference is that these are custom made tests by the professors, sometimes only a few hours before the exam (from what I know), and these standardized tests ought to be a 'little bit' more refined.

Re:poor question.. but... (4, Insightful)

Jiro (131519) | about a year ago | (#45311741)

Other than that? That was the entire problem. Look, we're adults and we can say "they probably meant to have this be a problem about subtracting 5 from 6, and the fact that the 5 was in pennies and the 6 wasn't was just some boneheaded test writer." A 6 year old may very well not figure that out even if he can subtract.

There's also a question of if a poorly written problem like this slips through, how shoddy the system of test reviewing is in the first place and so how many other problems are as bad.

Re:poor question.. but... (1)

pscottdv (676889) | about a year ago | (#45311797)

Right. So kids who have attended one and one-half month of first grade are expected to set up a simple algebraic equation from a picture problem with confusing iconography and then solve for x.

Sounds age appropriate...

I see the problem (-1, Flamebait)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#45311373)

This test was done by the part of the government which built the Obamacare website. They should have turned it over to the NSA.

Re:I see the problem (1)

aeranvar (2589619) | about a year ago | (#45311443)

Wouldn't the NSA design a system where they already knew how the student would do by observing classroom behavior? This kind of responsive ("predictive") system was exactly the sort of thing that researchers wanted to develop when I was at EDM 2013 [google.com] in July, by the way.

Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter, I know this one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311379)

When Monty asks if you want to switch doors, always say 'yes'. There's a 2/3 chance you'll win that way.

Right-wing nutjobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311525)

I love being labeled a right-wing nutjob when I point out that common core is flawed to the core. It was fine when it was a concensus standard, but every self-declared expert came out of the woodwork when it became effectively a federal mandate.

*scratches head* (4, Insightful)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | about a year ago | (#45311401)

Yeah, why pennies, and why a cup? I'm guessing the answer is D, 1, based on the number on the side of the cup, but that's a guess.

And what about #12? What the heck is a "subtraction sentence"? Why are there no subtractions in the answers?

Re:*scratches head* (1)

aeranvar (2589619) | about a year ago | (#45311495)

I'm *GUESSING* here, but they might be trying to focus on the relationship between mathematics and language. Since you can't exactly teach context-free grammars to young children, this might be the first step (comparing mathematical expressions to sentences) of a half-assed attempt at going down that route.

On the other hand, the authors of the curriculum may also just be idiots.

Re:*scratches head* (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311503)

The Nautilus was a really fast submarine because it had great subtraction.

Universal language goes mainstream (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311623)

And what about #12? What the heck is a "subtraction sentence"? Why are there no subtractions in the answers?

It seems that since Math is described as "universal language", these clowns have "CSI'ed" this concept and talk about equations as sentences. Now, you if you want to confuse the heck out of a 5 year old, this is exactly how you'd present the situation. You might as well start throwing theorems and axioms around while you are at it!

The point of math is logical thinking. These tests show very little of it. There are some hints, but basically instead of writing "subtraction sentences" or "find numerical sentence that is true", how about simple, logical questions??

Bob has 5 apples. Bob gives 3 of his apples with Alice. How many apples are there?

Bob has 5 apples. Bob eats 2 apples and loses 1. How many apples does he have left?

Bob has 5 apples. He gives 3 applies to Mary. Mary gives 1 apple to Johnny. How many apples does Mary have?

Why would I need to start describing this as "subtraction sentences"? That ruins the entire point - it sets up the problem! It is suppose to be about logic, and they missed the point.

is the answer D? (4, Interesting)

comrade1 (748430) | about a year ago | (#45311403)

Because the pennies add up to 5, and to be whole it should be 6? Or is whole milk 6% fat and 6/100 = .06 * 5 pennies = .30, or in other words 30%, which is why the genius kid picked B? Or is it message about the deflation of the value of the dollar in international markets and the price of milk?

Re:is the answer D? (5, Funny)

comrade1 (748430) | about a year ago | (#45311417)

oh, wait! Those aren't pennies! They're oreos! Now it makes complete sense!

Failure is expected result (-1, Offtopic)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#45311405)

There is nothing wrong with these test, if little Johnny isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer - then he shouldn't be getting As in math. On other hand if teachers don't get such basic logic questions they have no place teaching math.
  Culture of "everyone passes regardless of merit" does no favors to our nation.

Re:Failure is expected result (3, Insightful)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45311457)

This is a test for 5 year olds just joining school FFS

Re:Failure is expected result (-1, Troll)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#45311537)

Yes, and time matches on. You are now expected to know more and earlier. Expecting to know 5+1 = 6 is not outrageous requirement for a 5 year old, nether is basic interpretation skills.

Today's society is mainly intellectual, no longer strong backs and soft minds have any useful place. We have machines to run production lines and mine coal. If we as a nation don't shape up other nations will take our place.

Re:Failure is expected result (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311559)

Today's society is mainly intellectual,

You are literally a retard.

Re:Failure is expected result (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311615)

So the test should have been: 1 + 5 = ?
a. 7
b. 8
c. 6
d. 42

Re:Failure is expected result (0)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#45311649)

Sure, but they chose to make it a bit harder. So what? The article did no demonstrate that it was unreasonably difficult, just whined that some kid failed it (probably author's).

I disagree with the premise that just because the question is difficult, it is bad question and should be removed.

Re:Failure is expected result (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#45311871)

You think the question isn't difficult? OK, then

5 pennies and a cup of milk with 6 written on the side. What is missing?


Re:Failure is expected result (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311633)

Then ask the question 5+1=? or 5+?=6.
There are even visual ways to frame the question that actually ask the question.
What is presented there is crap. Might as well ask 5 apples + ? = 6 oranges, and even that would make more sense than that question.

Re:Failure is expected result (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45311683)

No the q was 5 plus a cup which makes no sense "you have 5 dollars and billy gives me 3 dollars how many dollars do i have is a valid question. this is a arithmetic test not a situationist performance art work.

Re:Failure is expected result (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#45311779)

I expect kids to know calculus by the time they're in pre-school.

Growing trend (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311877)

Yes, and time matches on. You are now expected to know more and earlier.

This is a theme that is quickly saturating employers and is trickling down. Isn't it convenient that the only people that say it are the ones that will never have to go through things like this test. Making things harder for every consecutive generation only helps previous ones.

It is just another way of saying "Fuck you! Got mine."

Re:Failure is expected result (1)

munch117 (214551) | about a year ago | (#45311903)

Putting ANY sort of "requirement" on a 5 year old is outrageous. Children develop at a different pace, especially at that age, and this year's math flunky could easily be next year's wiz kid. Unless you ruin it by sending the kid a clear message that she has no talent.

Re:Failure is expected result (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311465)

Well, there is clearly something wrong with your brain.

Re:Failure is expected result (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311509)

You don't understand! Until everychild gets 100% in every test they might think they are faillures and not precious little snow flakes.

Re:Failure is expected result (1)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#45311575)

Exactly, if nearly every child gets nearly 100% on every test, then these tests are useless. You test to measure both ability and familiarity with the material. Otherwise why not just assign grades solely based on attendance?

Novel Idea (0)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45311421)

Here's a novel idea. Instead of bitching about it, fix it. You find two poorly written questions on a test and its some kind of travesty? Look at the bright side....kids are going to have to learn to deal with people that can't express themselves, or ask stupid questions, eventually.

Re:Novel Idea (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#45311501)

no but when 45% of the students fail and it is material they have learned and passed in other tests then the test itself is a failure.

Half the problem of word problems is English is a horrible language. I before E except after C unless your an glacier efficient ancient person.

Re:Novel Idea (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45311583)

I don't disagree with your point, but it depends on the purpose of the test. If low scores are all due to poor questions then it needs to be fixed. If its simply just harder then the other tests, then what is the benefit of making it easier just to raise the scores. Results of standardized testing of 6 year olds does not need to be shared with the kids to start with. I should be used to track, trend, and improve the instruction. If used that way, it does not matter where the bell curve of results peaks. Ideally, you might want it to peak about 50%.

Re:Novel Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311747)

English would be preferable to whatever language that test was written in.

Re:Novel Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311535)

You can't. I've tried many times to have schools clear up terribly worded questions. There's always someone above that won't push the issue to the source, and teachers cannot be bothered to proof read tests before handing them out.

Here is the fix . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311673)

. . . don't give small children a WRITTEN math test. At that age, it becomes a reading test, really. So to help those who are bad at reading but reasonable at math, they used the idiotic wording. But using a minimum of words made it hard to formulate a question properlu. (And who keeps pennies in a cup - why not something vaguely familiar like a piggy bank or a wallet?)

To test five year olds, the teacher asks the questions orally and fill in the form him/herself. Yes, that means more work to do the test, but that's small children for you.

Written math tests are for children old enough that you take the reading part for granted.

Re:Novel Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311755)

Our children have a narrow window to learn in. This is government intuitive. Have you ever known anything to move fast in government? Do we stick with the current system until the new version comes out in 3-4 year? A 3-4 year period where are our kids are forced into a way of thinking that doesn't work and will stick with them the rest of their lives. Or do we go back to a system that at least made sense?

I have novel concept: Democratic Education - Think Slashdot Firehose/Reddit for education. The tests are made by real people. Other people vote people vote on what they think questions actually are. That way everyday people make the decisions instead of the bureaucrats that have been out of the real world for decades.

That explains why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311431)

Americans are so bad at maths when they're really testing English comprehension.

Re:That explains why (3, Informative)

aeranvar (2589619) | about a year ago | (#45311511)

This is a comment that I hear frequently from my friends that are teachers; most standardized tests don't actually test the skill they're intending to evaluate.

Why reinvent the wheel? (0, Flamebait)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year ago | (#45311439)

We know what works in education, but we apparently are unable or unwilling to do it. Take a look at some of the tests from a hundred years ago and try your luck at passing them, or read reports written by sixth graders in 1900. Impressive, huh?

We need better discipline in schools and less political correctness. Zero-tolerance should be replaced with common sense and mature judgement. Teachers who can't teach (even if they know their subject backwards and forwards) should be fired. It should be possible for anyone with the proper qualifications to teach whether they have a "teaching certificate" or not; imagine a person retiring from IBM teaching a computer class or a retiree from the financial field teaching economics.

There's no need to experiment with our children using untested methods that may or may not work. We know how to do this. It ain't rocket surgery, for Christ's sake.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311517)

or read reports written by sixth graders in 1900.

I'm calling bullshit on this. Part of my job a couple of years ago was handling university archives. I was exposed to a large number of essays written by college students from ~1890-1910. They were all on the level that I was expected to write freshman year of high school.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (5, Funny)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#45311759)

Part of my job a couple of years ago was handling university archives. I was exposed to a large number of essays written by college students from ~1890-1910. They were all on the level that I was expected to write freshman year of high school.

Hush. You're bringing relevant facts into a discussion of cherished golden-age mythology. You're supposed to join in the wailing and gnashing of teeth over our decline from those halcyon days (always conveniently just out of living memory) when people were upright and moral and true, before the rot set in and we declined to our present sad state of affairs. O tempora! O mores!

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (2)

Bowling Moses (591924) | about a year ago | (#45311605)

"Teachers who can't teach (even if they know their subject backwards and forwards) should be fired."


"It should be possible for anyone with the proper qualifications to teach whether they have a "teaching certificate" or not; imagine a person retiring from IBM teaching a computer class or a retiree from the financial field teaching economics."

Since they don't have any experience teaching, let alone teaching a class full of people aged 18 and younger, they would probably be horrifically bad teachers.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#45311679)

Take a look at some of the tests from a hundred years ago and try your luck at passing them, or read reports written by sixth graders in 1900. Impressive, huh?

Part of the reason for that apparent phenomenon is that the kids who weren't actually near the top of their class in 1900 didn't go to school. Most 12-year-olds were working, either in factories or on family farms. Illiteracy and innumeracy was much much higher than it is today: Many many people not only couldn't have passed those tests, many people couldn't even read the numbers or hope to add them together. The fact of the matter is that according to even cursory study of the issue demonstrates that on average Americans are better educated now than at any time previously in the entire history of the country. The idea that there was some kind of idyllic America with great educational systems some time in the distant past is just nonsense.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (2, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | about a year ago | (#45311719)

It's easy to say "teachers who can't teach shoudl be fired" without looking at that fact that in many states the annual salary for a teacher is a paltry 35K / year or under. NO ONE wants to teach because they are paid horribly, are constantly lambasted by the public, and in many inner cities it is a dangerous job to boot. Teaching is not paid at the level it should be in the united states. You aren't going to get good teachers if you don't pay them a living wage.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (1, Insightful)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year ago | (#45311841)

$70k of student debt, $35k/year income, got 30 kids to watch during the day, and spend all night scoring their stuff. Fun times! Maybe they'll have their debt paid off by the time they retire.

Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about a year ago | (#45311861)


most likely as the anonymous coward suggested you had a slight overshot, and another second one, because you do undermine later what you stated at first,
and well this is not logical and you can only be a good teacher if you can build logical bridges.

First I will explain to you why you undermined your own(reasonable) entry statement.

Entry statement:
"..less political correctness, zero tolerance should be replaced with common sense and mature judgement."

Contradicting statement:
"Teachers who can't teach .. should be fired."

This is zero tolerance, this is not based on common sense and simply as immature as zero tolerance is. Because you create the same
myth in this case a bad-teacher-myth.

However I can understand because I know from my own experience more than two decades ago, that your statement expresses anger on certain types of teachers,
and most are really laking insight, but some have sociopathic tendencies.

But the key issue you are creating here is not the "I'm bad at math" but "I'm a bad teacher". You don't leave "bad" teachers a way out as well as bad teachers and "the system" leaves many children no way out of the "bad at math myth".

The way you can help a child break this myth is the same way as a teacher can be tought away from the bad-teacher-myth.
Through the way of first creating a moderate learning environment and neutralising the myth for a short amount of time(this is the first step).

I did this by when my pupils brought this "myth" up in confronting them with the fact why they lack certain skills and the analysis was a Q&A Analysis asking about learning habbits, learning intervalls, learning methods, and then they realized, mostly without much help from the outside that the first road block is the
way they approached the problem (turtle tactic, duck & cover, do nothing). The second step however is to show your pupils what changed you into the person of today, how you approach a problem.

Math problems for example are divide & conquer problems, and preparation, and I like what the principal said because she has an extreme insight!

And there is one thing when teaching children, you can never win against the "the-math-test-is-tommorrow-syndrome" you can only mitigate the problem,
but you can prepare a child that it will most likely fail or D+/- a test it hadn't prepared itself in the first.

Neutralize that fail, teach that battles can be lost, but wars can still be won, and that sometimes you should give up a fight regain strength and start over.
And then it's up to your ability to convince a child to start learning, and teach it how to learn, how to do self organisation.

The main goal of such teaching lessons must be that you can only lay out a path were it can learn how to teach itself.

So now replace children with teachers, and you see that you need only to neutralize a dead lock, and I think 90% of all bad teachers can learn how to get better,
but in an aggressive environment, nobody will learn.

Common Core or a crappy test? (5, Insightful)

the_scoots (1595597) | about a year ago | (#45311459)

I don't see the Common Core standards as the problem, this is just a poorly written test made by people who were not the authors of Common Core. Unless I misunderstand, Common Core simply defines what skills a student should be proficient at by the end of school years. It doesn't define these test questions, Pearson Education did.

you're already bad at math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311467)

you took 45% and didn't compare it to any other statistical metrics

Re:you're already bad at math (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about a year ago | (#45311625)

I'm no expert, but I'd say he meant 45% of the score... where 100% would be all of it.

Re:you're already bad at math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311675)


what is the curve of the class
; as compared to the district
; as compared to the county

and a whole slew of socioeconomic factors

making vast judgments based on a simple fraction is a problem that goes beyond math

There are worse mistakes in the Common Core texts (5, Interesting)

mi (197448) | about a year ago | (#45311499)

An earlier edition of the "Social Studies Extended Response" stated the following [thepeoplescube.com] (emphasis mine):

Thus, poor countries are often home to terrorist groups that are free to plan and carry out attacks on the rich, industrialized nations, without fear of being stopped. This is in fact what happened on 9/11 when terrorists from Afghanistan hijacked planes and carried out attacks on the United States.

Re:There are worse mistakes in the Common Core tex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311905)

Paid for by our friends the Saudis.

the theodp vaguely-related-link game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311527)

What is it with the link in the last line of theodp submissions?

John Van de Walle 's Missing Part Cards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311541)


dumbed down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311557)

Calling an equation a "number sentence" seems retarded.

Common Core isn't all that bad (5, Interesting)

BringsApples (3418089) | about a year ago | (#45311577)

It's a system full of good intentions, but the people that come up with the questions appear to be gearing things toward a certain way of thinking. I'm all about the system, it is designed to show the children how they think, and how they work out problems naturally, in their mind's eye as it were.

One problem that I have had with it in the past is that the way the questions allow for assumptions. For instance, I'm from Alabama. In Alabama it's generally hot and humid. When we take our kids to the park, they generally are wearing sandals or flip-flops. Any time they're playing in the sand, they're going to be bare-footed, or at the most, sandals/flip-flops. They give the kids a story to read about a kid that goes to the park. The story is basically this:

Story title: 'A day at the park' Timmy goes to the park. He plays in the park. He plays in the sand. It starts to rain, so Timmy has to leave. Timmy goes home and puts on dry socks. Timmy then takes a nap. When Timmy wakes up, the sun is out. He goes back to the park. Timmy likes the sun. Timmy smiles.

Then the questions that they ask are something like this:

1) What's another good title for this story? a) The sun b) Timmy goes to the park c) Rain and sun d) Timmy takes a nap

2) Why did Timmy put on dry socks? a) Because Timmy was home b) Because his socks were wet c) Because he was sleepy d) Because Timmy wanted to go back to the park

So question #1 is asking for an opinion, and question #2 is asking about something that's not mentioned in the story. After my kid missed both questions, I asked the teacher why, and her answer was that the questions are introducing higher learning. Higher learning? An opinion is higher learning? Asking questions that are full of assumptions not mentioned in the story, is higher learning?

So in that way it needs to be improved upon. But for math, they allow the kids to express the algorithm in any way, and as long as they get the answer correct, and the algorithm that they use is logical, then they're credited with learning. And I think that's way better than, "Here is an algorithm, learn it, and use it." Because if you don't understand how that algorithm came to be, you will not be able to use it in real life. Whereas if you came up with the algorithm yourself, you cannot explain how or why you came up with it, but you understand how to use your brain in the real world.

More IQ test than math test (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about a year ago | (#45311585)

The question is unclear and ambiguous, but the smarter test takers will figure out what they are probably asking. Somehow I don't think that was the original intent of the funders of this project.

The problem here seems to be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311587)

... that maths concepts are being taught as if maths was similar to English Language. I suspect that was felt to be easier, or 'more inclusive' by the bureaucrats.

Unfortunately, maths is a very precise set of codes, and English (in common with most other cultural languages) is full of nuance and ambiguity. 5-6 year olds are just starting to come to grips with language, and I'm not sure that pretending that a mathematical equation is the same thing as a sentence is going to help them.

Besides, if it is, how do you do a metaphor in maths?

I took the whole test (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#45311591)

I took the whole test she posted and got a perfect score :-D yay! I sort of see where question #1 makes no sense but I get what they were trying to get at. A 6 cent cup of coffee perhaps? I dunno. Anyway, I'm a former math and programming tutor at my college and am now CIO and head software engineer at my company. That may have skewed the results a bit, lol.

The rest of the test (2)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#45311599)

It's not quite as bizarre as Q1, but the rest of the test isn't so great. Still looks like the kid failed legitimately, the test only contributed.

Question 2 asks about jars and shows a picture depicting cubes, which seems odd, but Q3 implies they've been taught some technique involving cubes, so that might be OK.

Assuming the cube thing has been taught Q3 is fine (although "number sentence" is odd; I imagine parents would absolutely freak if someone tried to teach little Greta and Johnny the word "equation")

Q4 is fine; sorry kid, you got that wrong legitimately

Q5 demonstrates the problem of trying to teach with simplified terminology. The kid was given that the total was 9 and a picture of 4 pennies. When asked for "part I know" the kid gave 9, which is literally true in one sense, but not what they're looking for.

Q6 and Q7 are fine. (but why are they using circular counters instead of cubes as they did before?)

Q8 and Q9 are fine.

Q10 and 11 are fine, but why are they under the topic of "Additions"? It's subtraction.

Q12 is broken. Elsewhere in the test they imply that a "subtraction sentence" is an equation with a subtraction operator. Searching the web confirms this. There's no subtraction operator there. Kudos to the kid for figuring out what they meant.

TFA leaps to strange conclusions. A bad question (4, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#45311603)

Someone at Pearson came up with a bad question.
They meant for that question to coincide with the standards which say subtraction should be taught. How the heck do you leap from "Pearson has some bad questions" to "curriculum standards are bad"? Common Core may be bad, it may be good, TFA gives no reason to believe either. They only show that Pearson's implementation has some errors.

We teach firefighting, construction safety, and other topics that have specific codes and standards students need to learn. When we realize we have a bad question we don't say "construction codes are bad and students shouldn't be expected to learn them", we say "this question is bad and we should rewrite it so it better gauges the student's understanding".

There are a couple of statistical calculations test makers can use to find and fix bad questions. It doesn't appear that Pearson used those (yet). If they run the calculation, they'll see which questions are bad and can fix or remove them.

Obviously if fewer than half of students get a question correct, it's probably a bad question. There are other calculations which are similar but more advanced. Look at a properly designed quiz covering the same subject, one with well vetted questions, and I bet it looks a lot better. Questions like "Imagine you had four cookies and gave one to your sister. How many would you have left?" also meet the common core standards, and that's probably a good question for a certain grade level.


So the test works as designed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311621)

Bill Gates thinks we need more H1b's, so why not foist a rigged math test on American students?

This is a vocabulary problem (1)

lseltzer (311306) | about a year ago | (#45311635)

The "part I know" stuff shows up later in the test (Question 5) in a much clearer context. It looks to me as if this is a phrasing that schools are expected to teach. That said, the test doesn't seem to me to be written at a first grade level

Are you kidding me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311643)

They should just give the kid the math problem and drop the pictures. They could always teach children to draw out pictures if it helps them. This is just silly, it's like someone is intentionally making useless questions so this project fails.

Yeah - that's pretty bad. (2)

RyanFenton (230700) | about a year ago | (#45311661)

I've worked on programming games of chance for various states and governments, and learned that's there's a lot of problems communicating odds/ratios/differences in the ways this test is laying things out, especially for wide audiences that will validly complain about the terms used.

While they're not always fully ambiguous, you're just going to get a large percentage of test-takers answering incorrectly for things they legitimately know, just because they were thinking 'wrong' about how the information was present at that moment. Now, while this does a good job of showing where real-life problems can mislead people - it does a poor job of testing the actual skills being taught, as it's testing too many distinct things in each question to be meaningful in measuring math alone.

In order to have these kinds of questions be meaningful, you'd have to ask several variants over 100's of questions to filter understanding of each aspect of the questions - and you couldn't do that in one sitting either - which is why these are bad questions for a test of math.

If you wanted to test understanding of language context, use a question just for that - a 'what is the best sentence to describe..', then you don't have to have it as part of every question, and can even use previous questions to establish a context.

What this seems designed to do, is provide poor test results for people who haven't been given special training about 'math sentences' (which don't correspond to much), so that they can inflate their "improvement" when people improve in their tests, which are mostly just about 'math sentences'.

That doesn't sound like a math class - that sounds like a product training class.

Richard Feynman would rant much about this.

Ryan Fenton

Range of problems (1, Interesting)

Boawk (525582) | about a year ago | (#45311663)

The problems with Common Core are manifold, from the (lack of) primary research behind it, to the squishiness of the outcomes. Here's a nice quote: "even if they said 3 X 4 was 11, if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer, really in words and oral explanations and they showed it in a picture but they just got the final number wrong; we’re really more focusing on the how and the why." (Fuzzy Math [youtube.com] )

Since 1970 we've more than doubled per-pupil spending on primary and secondary students in real dollars (National Center for Education Statistics [ed.gov] ) with little to show in academic improvement. <sarcasm>But hey! We've found the problem! What we need to do is yoke all 50 states to a common set of education standards! That'll help!</sarcasm>

I abhor the intelligent design crap that some states try to shove into primary and secondary school curricula. However, all the power to them as long as I'm free to influence the math- and science-rich curriculum I want established in my state. I find it more repugnant that the Federal government sees fit to bribe states to adopt a one-size-fits-all model.

Reminds me of my niece in her pre-K test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311695)

The teacher shows her a set of pictures of animals, and asks her to "Name the animals." She proceeds to... Spot (a dog), Whiskers (a cat), and so on. The teacher notes that she doesn't know her animals, not realizing she actually told her to NAME the animals, not identify them. Since she'd been playing Nintendogs for a few years at that point, she was used to naming animals, and that's exactly what she did.

The NYS Math Standard (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#45311737)

Looks as though it was written by attorneys and legislators. No wonder it's so screwed up!

Pearson (4, Interesting)

C3ntaur (642283) | about a year ago | (#45311765)

Is this the same Pearson that designs and administers tests for IT and other professional certifications? If so, it would explain a lot. The ones I've taken seem to be designed not to test your skills in the subject matter, so much as to test your capacity to parse bad English and to solve trick questions. It's horrifying to think that we are subjecting first graders to this crap.

$150 MILLION!? (1)

tmosley (996283) | about a year ago | (#45311809)

They spent 150 MILLION DOLLARS on this? Where on earth did the money go? This is like the first draft of a test written by a teacher who just doesn't care.

Bill Gates, if you are reading this, how about you give me just $1 million dollars and I will write you a much better standard, despite the fact that I don't know a damn thing about education. I do, at least, know how to read and write. I can research the rest.

This is not unusual (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45311887)

I see alot of standardized tests because I homeschool

I get to see the standardized tests that are provided by various organization because I am compelled by state law to administer one per year to each of my three children so that the all-powerful, wise, and knowing local school district can be assured that my children are progressing along at a fine academic pace. The school district still worries about my kids being social weirdo's, but that's aside the point.

Everyone of these tests (Peabody, Stanford, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and MN-CAT) that I've seen is horrible until the third grade because they assume the children can't read -- which is a fine assumption. So instead the kids are required to try to interpret problems based on pictures and other kinds of visual cues. The peabody is at least mostly verbale.

Probably 5% of the question even adults can't figure out. 10% the kids can't figure out.

So it's not news to people who have to admin the tests.

Math / Science and school (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#45311907)

The math and science standards in north america are horrible. My girl friend moved from China to Ontario at age 9 and she says that until Grade 9 she didn't learn a single new science or math concept. If we want to really make the system work for the kids we need to drastically revamp how we teach math and science and really follow the Asian standard.
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