Friday, October 26, 2018

The Prince of Algebra . . . and SAT scores

     An article in a recent issue of the Washington Post (perhaps this link will get you to it) told of a drop in SAT scores for the Class of 2018 -- and it has got me to thinking about various approaches to teaching and learning and about what test scores measure. Once -- a dozen or so years ago -- I got roped into helping with an SAT-prep course and was astounded to learn how much improvement was predicted for strategies relating to when to guess, when to give no answer, and so on.
     As I parented children moving through school, it seemed to me that one of the best features in their educational years was variety in their teachers.  We want -- in our math classes and throughout our schools -- to educate people who can keep on learning and who can respond to unexpected situations.  Multiple choice questions on SAT tests represent only one aspect of that variety.
     Teachers meet a variety of students -- and none of us are perfectly suited for them all.  One of the interesting students to whom I tried to be helpful speaks in the following poem, "The Prince of Algebra," also previously posted in this blog on January 10, 2014.

 The Prince of Algebra      by JoAnne Growney

       Madam Professor,
       let me introduce myself.
       I'm Albert James,
       whom you may know
       by my test score
       that's lower than my age.

       Your algebra tests
       are too long for me
       in fifty minutes,
       but I am proud
       of my attendance.
       I never miss class,
       never come late.

       I'm preparing
       for a new career.
       For thirty years
       I was with
       the Postal Service,
       never absent,
       never late.

       Your mathematics
       is important!
       It runs the clock
       which runs the mail.
       Now I train to be
       a first grade teacher.

       I will teach
       by punctuality
       and perfect attendance.

As well as in various blog-postings, several more of my math poems are online here at my webpage.

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