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Are You Better At Math Than a 4th (or 10th) Grader?

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the tyranny-of-testing dept.

Math 845

New submitter newslash.formatb points to this Washington Post blog post, which "discusses the National Assessment of Educational Progress test (specifically, the math part). One of the school board members took it and was unable to answer any of the 60 math questions, though he guessed correctly on 10 of them. He then goes on to claim that the math isn't relevant to many people. P.S. — if you want to feel like Einstein, check out some sample questions." Maybe this is mostly about the kind of life skills that are sufficient to succeed in management.

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Frist psot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324464)

Frist Psot

Worried (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324466)

Havent taken a math test in a little while, was worried I was missing something after every question.

I wasnt.

Re:Worried (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324584)

Who cares? I make more money than almost a dozen 4th graders and about the same as four 10th graders. It's a good thing Newt released them from Fed control and put them back to work!

Hard to believe (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324472)

That a reasonably intelligent person cannot answer the following question: 1. (47 x 75) ÷ 25 = ... You can use a calculator.

Re:Hard to believe (4, Funny)

sjwt (161428) | about 3 years ago | (#38324490)

It was hard to believe anyone would needed a calculator for 47 * 3,

Though I got the triangle one wrong, but realised it as soon as I clicked to get the answers, Its been too long since I used any real graph, I forgot I would only be putting one axis into the negative!

Re:Hard to believe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324536)

I think your excuse shows why older people fail at these tests: They treat them as something you need to learn by heart. If you visualize the problem, it is immediately clear where the mirrored point is. Then you don't need to remember "how many" signs to flip.

Or you never visualized them in the first place. (5, Interesting)

goldcd (587052) | about 3 years ago | (#38324718)

My partner got crap grades at GCSE maths and wanted to re-take it (originally taken at 16 in the UK, this was ~15 years later).
Now I got an A the first time around for GCSE, and then at 18 I pretty much completely screwed up my 'pure' maths part and was only partially rescued by the statistical part. Trying to explain stuff to her made me suddenly realize that the parts I was good at, were the parts that I could visualize.
More than that, it wasn't that I had some mental block on some topics - it was just that I'd never learnt them (or been taught them) properly in the first place. If I spent a bit of time looking at the type of question, rather than the specific question, stuff 'clicks'. I came away with 2 thoughts:
1) If my knowledge is supposed to grow 'like a tree', a whole load of branches got lopped off a long time ago - just felt a little bit sad that I'd spent so long no even noticing that I'd given up. This led to a pub conversation around differentiation/integration - I knew what to do, I knew what the inputs and outputs meant (i.e. I could do the questions) but I'd never understood WHY. I'd always been very sniffy about those who could say only multiply if they'd learnt their times table by rote, but I was doing exactly the same thing, just on a topic a little bit more advanced.
2) Other thing I realized was that I was already doing some operations mentally in exactly the same way as some new technique in her book, that I'd never been taught. I'm unsure that everybody thinks in the same way and other techniques vary, but surely I'd have saved time if I'd been taught it - but then maybe it's the fact that my brain decided to solve them this way, that's made it stick for me.
Take for example the first test (47 x 75) ÷ 25
You can either know that you do the thing in the brackets first, then the thing outside - as you've learnt your rules. But stepping back and looking at it as a whole, it becomes trivial.
47 is a bit of a odd number, I'll leave that for now
I'm multiplying something by 75 and then dividing it by 25. So I'll throw those away and multiply by 3. Leaving me with 47 * 3
ah, 47 again. Well it's close enough to 50. So I'll do 50*3 giving me 150.
Finally time for the correction to my not knowing my 47 times table. I knocked off 3*3 to give me the easy 150, so just need to take the 9 off to give the 141.

I genuinely wonder if everybody else worked that out the same way, but it's now just the way my head works. Bit that annoyed me is that whenever I was taught anything, we were told "how to do it" - maybe education would be better if every teacher has to be able to explain 3 ways of approaching any problem. Better yet, rather than testing the student with the question and just getting a boolean pass/fail - the teacher should ask the pupil around their thought processes when they look at the problem - "talk me through it".
The chances of every coming across that particular question in the real world are practically nil. So the purpose of the question is to test whether the process is present in the pupil - yet maths papers NEVER seem to ask for this. From memory there was the 'show working' marks, but they just tended to dry up after the first mistake was made - and aren't particularly conducive to how I personally think (mental white-board and processing explained verbally).

Re:Hard to believe (1)

mathletics (1033070) | about 3 years ago | (#38324582)

But first you have to know that you can divide first. Many don't, I'm sure.

Re:Hard to believe (1)

smallfries (601545) | about 3 years ago | (#38324532)

Seemed easy enough, took a couple of minutes without a calculator. Seemed like a well designed test that was thought out to check the underlying skills. The spread of answers was well chosen to provide an appropriate number of red herrings. Tl; dr Easy test, well designed for target audience.

Re:Hard to believe (4, Informative)

toonces33 (841696) | about 3 years ago | (#38324550)

That wasn't from the same test - it was from a test for 4th graders. But if you need a calculator for that problem (esp given the multiple choice answers), you probably didn't do well in math.

I guess the thing that bugs me about this story is that this administrator concluded that since he was a successful paper-pusher and didn't need to know that stuff, the problem was that the math test was too hard. I would suggest that you give the same test to a set of scientists and engineers and see how they do before one can draw that conclusion.

Re:Hard to believe (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324588)

You know that this was a member of the school board?
You know what state our schools are in?

Do the math and reconsider the "reasonably intelligent" part. It becomes quite easy to believe.

Re:Hard to believe (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | about 3 years ago | (#38324708)

yeah... that one was for fourth graders. The test the school board member took was for 10th grade. That said if you can't use a calculator by fourth grade you should be held back.

are people really that dumb? (2)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about 3 years ago | (#38324476)

well... that's sad.

Re:are people really that dumb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324484)

Yeah, the questions are really easy to solve.

Maybe this is just me (4, Insightful)

Zironic (1112127) | about 3 years ago | (#38324482)

But I found those questions trivial without a calculator, how you'd manage to fail with a calculator is beyond me.

Re:Maybe this is just me (1)

Dreetje (672686) | about 3 years ago | (#38324500)

I actually thought you couldn't use a calculator when you started cause I wouldn't know how you can get these questions wrong with one (unless you have dyscalculus). You'd suppose that a board member is able to get more right ;) Got everything right, of course. Oh well, who needs math when you are popular, right? :)

Re:Maybe this is just me (5, Funny)

dmesg0 (1342071) | about 3 years ago | (#38324624)

Well, if you thought you couldn't use a calculator, it means you failed a comprehension test (the text clearly stated you could use one). Maybe that was the real test?

Re:Maybe this is just me (2)

funkatron (912521) | about 3 years ago | (#38324522)

I used a calculator once because it's too early in the morning to do division. In general though, a calculator won't make much difference to the results of a maths test; it makes working out numbers less laborious but it's no help unless you know what calculations you wanted to do anyway.

Re:Maybe this is just me (2)

Zironic (1112127) | about 3 years ago | (#38324580)

Well, doing it manually means you at least have to know how to perform the operations, when you enter them into the calculator you just have to know what order they're supposed to go in and with a fancy enough calculator you don't even need to know that since it can solve the entire expression.

This is important since the only way you'll ever get through calculus is by knowing how to simplify expressions, and if you never learn because you keep using a calculator then like most people you'll fail.

Re:Maybe this is just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324740)

> Well, doing it manually means you at least have to know how to perform the operations,

No, it doesn't. This is a stupid multiple-choice test.

You need to be able to rule out N-1 choices. For a division question you can do that by
knowing only how to multiply.

For a more advanced test, think of (symbolic) integration. That can be _very_ hard.
The reverse -- symbolic differentiation -- is an easy and mechanical task.

Anyone creating a math multiple-choice test has more or less failed the subject.

Re:Maybe this is just me (5, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 3 years ago | (#38324594)

Actually, a calculator is a hindrance. One of the virtues of mental arithmetic is that one gets a "feel" for numbers and magnitudes, and how they behave. People who use calculators exclusively never learn that skill.

It's like putting people in a motorized wheelchair so they never learn to walk. In theory it's not a bad idea - a wheelchair with a powerful motor would give us the ability to drive around faster than we can walk or run, and carry lots of luggage around etc. In practice it's a stupid idea, obviously.

What you should have done in that one problem was not used a calculator, but looked at the sizes of the numbers given in the multiple choices, and then picked the choice where the magnitude was in the correct ballpark.

Re:Maybe this is just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324636)

Even simpler. (47x75)/25=47x3. That's easy enough to multiply in your head or just look for the answer that ends in 1.

Re:Maybe this is just me (1)

Gib7 (2445652) | about 3 years ago | (#38324564)

Absolutely.

The only one I thought of reaching for a calculator for was the wages one, and that's just because I'm lazy. Then I noticed one had the correct cents, and so that must be the answer.

I could forgive forgetting the coordinate system, and remembering the difference between rotating about the Y axis and flipping the sign of the y coordinate, but the rest were just sums. That someone could fail to get 100% on the sums with a calculator is ridiculous.

I sincerely hope that these weren't true representations of the difficulty of the test, and that the journalists are being silly......

Otherwise the world is doomed.

Re:Maybe this is just me (2)

Zironic (1112127) | about 3 years ago | (#38324600)

Yeh, I could tell at a glance it would be 200 something, and there's no way in hell that the cents would be even. I have to admit I was guessing slightly on the X,Y as well since I wasn't sure that the question was actually asking since it used wording unfamiliar to me but I do know that mirroring over the Y axis simply means flipping the X coordinate.

Re:Maybe this is just me (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 3 years ago | (#38324626)

That someone could fail to get 100% on the sums with a calculator is ridiculous.

I'm really good at maths, but terrible at basic arithmetic - mainly because my mind wanders and I make stupid mistakes. I can't even count to 100 most of the time without missing a few numbers or losing my place.

I got all the questions right except for the one with the wages which was the only one I actually used the calculator for - my calculator was in 'programming' mode and truncated the decimals. If I was concentrating and not watching a movie and building openwrt at the same time I probably would have picked up that it was a stupid mistake - that 288 doesn't divide evenly into any number with a 0 on the end should have been obvious, and the fact that multiplying that number by 29 wouldn't get rid of the decimal should have been just as obvious :(

Re:Maybe this is just me (1)

jgrahn (181062) | about 3 years ago | (#38324586)

But I found those questions trivial without a calculator, how you'd manage to fail with a calculator is beyond me.

Yes -- when I first read the summary, I assumed it was questions about things like long division -- algorithms which you learn as a kid, then forget because you never use them. But the actual questions were common-sense ones which you *do* exercise in normal adult life.

Re:Maybe this is just me (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324604)

My guess is that you are not on a school board and instead are doing some productive work.

If you just sit around lazily all day, your muscles atrophy due to a lack of usage. If you're on a school board, something similar happens with your brain, it seems.

Re:Maybe this is just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324656)

No sorry. It isn't you. I thought our school system was bad, but seeing these tests which are a joke compared to ours somehow leverages the bad notes our pupils score. Someone with two science degrees failing these tests makes me think that some other tests are also too easy.

Re:Maybe this is just me (1)

meglon (1001833) | about 3 years ago | (#38324690)

This guy didn't fail, he failed in such an epic way he should be embarrassed to show his face in public.. for the rest of his life. I don't know that there's an adjective sufficient to describe his level of failure, certainly not one I've heard in 50 years.

This is dangerous... (5, Insightful)

adamchou (993073) | about 3 years ago | (#38324486)

After reading this article, having someone as influential as a school board member take this test and fail it is putting education on a very dangerous course. It normally wouldn't be too bad but this guy's ego is so big that instead of admitting that he just isn't knowledgeable on the subject, he goes on a rant about how irrelevant this stuff is to life and how unnecessary this subject matter is to evaluating a student's college career. I mean sure, it might not be relevant to him for his job duties, but any science/engineering discipline should be well versed in simple math like this. I really hope he doesn't make a push to dumb down these tests to make the math easier.

Re:This is dangerous... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324512)

In science and engineering, answering multiple choice questions is hardly something you need to excel at.

Yes (1)

goldcd (587052) | about 3 years ago | (#38324518)

I read the first article and agreed with his conclusions - but he couldn't do any of the questions?
Ran through the test, and erm they were very easy. I can only assume it was a different test.

Reminded me of the RSA animation on education - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U [youtube.com]

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324696)

Thank you for that link. Great series!

Re:Yes (5, Informative)

adamchou (993073) | about 3 years ago | (#38324742)

It was a different test. The one he took was the 10th grade version. The one in the summary is 3 sample questions from each of the 4th and 8th grade tests

Re:This is dangerous... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324548)

Well, it kinda depends.

There's no doubt in my mind that the US (I'm Australian) desperately needs more people to study engineering, and other applied sciences. For those, the mathematics in the sample questions is extremely rudimentary, and I would be very worried if somebody who couldn't cope with those questions wanted to go on to become an engineer.

But conversely, for other fields that are necessary for society to function - psychiatrists, physiotherapists, nurses, mechanics, plumbers, etc. - the maths in question is probably as advanced as they need (maybe more.)

So the key question here is not one of the relevance of the tests and subjects being taught. It's more a question of how they're applied. To tell somebody, "You flunked this maths test; you're not cut out for tertiary education" is to do that person a gross disservice. To tell them, "You flunked this maths test; you need to do some serious remedial work or you won't be able to do engineering" is much more accurate, and much more useful.

It comes down to the fundamental issue that's dogging society today: everybody wants black and white, when really, you can only realistically describe it all as shades of grey. "I disagree with your views, but I can see an element of truth in what you say" is much harder for people (as a rule) to cope with than "YOU'RE WRONG, AND YOU'RE GOING TO HELL!"

Re:This is dangerous... (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 years ago | (#38324644)

But conversely, for other fields that are necessary for society to function - psychiatrists, physiotherapists, nurses, mechanics, plumbers, etc. - the maths in question is probably as advanced as they need (maybe more.)

Absolutely not. Everyone needs to know at least this much math, even if only to be competent at handling money.

Re:This is dangerous... (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324662)

Bad, very bad, examples. Psychiatrists have a LOT of statistics in their degree. Physiotherapists are hardly good in their field if they know nothing about the physical constraints of the human body (which requires quite a bit of math to actually understand it), and I wouldn't want a mechanic that doesn't know why the first thing about how much force his torque wrench should use.

Sure, they can work by rote, going by the manual, but that's akin to the multitudes of rote programmers who know nothing about the algorithms they used and just adjust code handed to them to fit the problem they're working on, not knowing WHY this works. Unlike programs, cars can have some serious impact when they crash because the person assembling them didn't take a little difference from the vanilla setup into account.

While I agree that the people you mentioned won't need to be able to solve two dimensional integrals, what we're talking about here is BASIC math. And I can't think of any professional that can get by without a knowledge of at least basic applied math if he wants to be good in his field.

Re:This is dangerous... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324614)

This is more than dangerous. I don't know how a person that fails at these basic tasks is able to manage their household. There was no need to guess anything. The tasks didn't exeed the difficulty of the math you need to decide on the right package size for the best value/money in the supermarket. It was tempting to take a shortcut to guess on a single one of the examples, but that would have been only a 30s saving on time spent on the test. I wouldnt even call some of the tests math. If he had to guess on the decimal numbers he is lucky to only need to work on big numbers and maybe cents. Somebody needs to tell him that cents are 1/100. Maybe he should take some tests in this country. They aren't multiple choice. No guessing.

If these people run the financial world it is no wonder the world has problems. I wonder how he got a science degree with his skills.

Re:This is dangerous... (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324622)

Hush! With kids too stupid to do basic math, we have job security to the grave and beyond!

Re:This is dangerous... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 3 years ago | (#38324634)

At least in my experience actual education is usually the last thing on school board members minds. You obviously have to have too much free time on your hands to run, and it seems that most of them are only interested in lowering taxes and forcing their religious beliefs on the school. Everything else is just "useless in everyday life"

RTFA - really, it's interesting! (5, Interesting)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 3 years ago | (#38324498)

This is an apparently intelligent, certainly successful person - who cannot do basic math. He asks a number of questions - thinking that the answers are rhetorical, but they aren't. BTW, for those who don't RFTA, the guy was lousy on the reading-comprehension as well.

For example: if people can be successful (he has three degrees) and yet unable to answer these math questions, it must obviously be the case that the math is unnecessary or unrealistic. But there are other possible explanations:

- He would be even more successful if he actually had these basic academic skills.

- His success is due to other factors. Maybe he has people skills (i.e., a salesman type). Maybe he knows the right people. Maybe he's just lucky.

- Maybe his academic degrees are actually worthless (he doesn't say what fields they are in).

The thing that is most striking about the sample math questions is that you are allowed to use a calculator, even though they are nothing especially complex. At worst, you have to multiply by numbers like 29. These are the kinds of skills someone needs to balance their checkbook, to plan their annual finances, to do their taxes.

So RTFA, and then: what conclusions do you draw?

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

ZG-Rules (661531) | about 3 years ago | (#38324572)

At worst, you have to multiply by numbers like 29.

No you don't.

"Last week Maureen earned $288.00 (before taxes) for working 40 hours. This week Maureen worked 29 hours at the same rate of pay. How much did Maureen earn (before taxes) this week?"

Divide 288 by 4 to get $72 for 10 hours. Multiply that by 3 to get 30 hours ($216). If 10 hours is $72, then one hour is $7.20

216 - 7.20 = $208.80

That is why I have an engineering degree from a world class university and this guy is a Teacher.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

pmontra (738736) | about 3 years ago | (#38324598)

Or notice that 288.80 / 40 is 72.2 (quite easy) and the decimal 2 times the unit 9 in 29 is 18. There is only one answer ending with a 8, that's it and that's the problem with multiple answers.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324654)

> Or notice that 288.80 / 40 is 72.2

*cough*

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324728)

Or fail both reading (288 != 288.80) and math (288.80 / 40 != 72.2) in one go.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324712)

Engineering teach you to do basic maths the hard way?

(288/40)*29 = 208.80

You did it the hard way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324726)

$288 * 29/40

Good grief. I hope you're not designing anything important.

In a standardized test, you could even guess the answer since the number had to be a fraction, and it had to be basically 75% of $288.

YOU DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO DO MATH TO GET THAT ANSWER RIGHT!!!!

I'm an old codger too. And you've demonstrated why I'm still a f*cking genius in every day life no matter what I do.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (1)

mishu2065 (1616553) | about 3 years ago | (#38324618)

I'm pretty shocked by the results.. I guess I've either been shielded by academia for too long or have very distorted expectations of people. I mean.. (47 x 75) ÷ 25 = .. really?

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 3 years ago | (#38324632)

I don't know how this works in America but in most places the upper management of governmental institutions are chosen based on loyalty and connections, not skill. And, like you said, three degrees are not a guarantee of knowledge.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324652)

The conclusion I drew was: HTF did he get a science degree?

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324684)

Erh... no. Intelligence has nothing to do with success in life. It should have, but it does not.

In our world, who you know is by some margin more important than what you know. Sure, the combination is the jackpot, but if you can only have one, choose the silver spoon.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324688)

"- His success is due to other factors. Maybe he has people skills (i.e., a salesman type). Maybe he knows the right people. Maybe he's just lucky."

Maybe his daddy is rich.

Re:RTFA - really, it's interesting! (0)

EvilNTUser (573674) | about 3 years ago | (#38324694)

- Maybe his academic degrees are actually worthless (he doesn't say what fields they are in).

They have to be. Someone who fails that math test isn't capable of producing reliable original work for anything. You can't trust their results, because they don't have the capacity to evaluate them critically .

In fact, I wouldn't allow a person who fails this test to go car shopping.

The thing that is most striking about the sample math questions is that you are allowed to use a calculator, even though they are nothing especially complex.

Yeah, what's up with that? You start using a calculator when you start focusing on the hard stuff, not when the entire question is "(47 x 75) ÷ 25 =". How are you supposed to learn anything from solving that with a calculator?

I don't believe him. (3, Insightful)

goldcd (587052) | about 3 years ago | (#38324750)

I can understand he might get some wrong and have forgotten others - but none?
My best guess is that he's pissed off with how the school board is being run, he's tried to get things changed and nobody is listening.
So he wants to go public. How does he get attention?
"Board member doesn't like tests"
"Board member didn't do as well on tests as he thought he would"
"Board member cannot do anything on test"

In his position I'd be selecting the headline, and then just filling in the test to ensure I got the one I wanted.

Old news. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324504)

I've long said all our teachers, administrators, ect... Should be forced to take the 'standardized tests' they force on the kids. Make it a yearly thing and see if they get to keep their jobs.
I'm sure less than 20% would pass. And that's being real generous.

Heck. Throw in all the politicians that created these systems.. I'd bet hard cash they can't pass either.

It was true 30 years ago when i was in school. And it's still true today. Most of the teachers are one step above drooling morons.

Re:Old news. (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324716)

What do you expect from the combination of crappy pay and horrible working conditions? People who are actually smart and could land any job wouldn't touch the teaching profession with a ten foot pole.

Pay teachers well and make sure their job description doesn't include "must have experience with taming wild animals" and you'll get better teachers and hence better education. For reference, see Finland.

Even probability fails. (4, Informative)

knuthin (2255242) | about 3 years ago | (#38324506)

One of the school board members took it and was unable to answer any of the 60 math questions, though he guessed correctly on 10 of them.

Wait.

Even a gorilla could have got 15/60. It's probability 101. (And a rather sensible assumption that all questions had 4 options)

Re:Even probability fails. (5, Funny)

niftydude (1745144) | about 3 years ago | (#38324638)

Exactly - this guy is so bad at maths that his educated guesses are actually worse than sheer random chance.

Impressive.

Re:Even probability fails. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324680)

If you follow the comments to a link to an Actual 10th grade question paper as opposed to the 4th and 8th grade questions attached to the article you will find that not all the questions are multiple choice.

Hence 10/60 probably is gorilla level...

Re:Even probability fails. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324724)

15 is only the mean. Having less than 15 correct answers would happen quite often if you repeteadly took the test (and choose the answers randomly).

Re:Even probability fails. (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | about 3 years ago | (#38324748)

So he's dumb and unlucky.

Its not clear how he escaped Darwin's wrath with the odds so heavily stacked against him.

Should math be taught in school? (2)

saibot834 (1061528) | about 3 years ago | (#38324754)

Maybe he just doesn't believe in math [youtube.com] You know, everyone is entitled to their opinion!

Not all managers suck at math (1)

Dan B. (20610) | about 3 years ago | (#38324510)

Especially those of us that deal primarily in accounts, deal with budgets, and worry about statistics.

I think what it really does highlight is that there is always at least one moron in the public administration system that no one can fire, thus they keep getting promoted so they become 'someone else's problem'. Eventually they become everyone's problem.

Then again maybe it's just not the one moron in public administration...

Re:Not all managers suck at math (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 years ago | (#38324568)

A manager does not need to be good at math. He or she just needs someone who works for him to be good at math.

. . . and smart enough to let that person handle the math questions . . .

Re:Not all managers suck at math (2)

niftydude (1745144) | about 3 years ago | (#38324646)

A manager does not need to be good at math. He or she just needs someone who works for him to be good at math.

. . . and smart enough to let that person handle the math questions . . .

... and good enough at people skills to know whether that person is ripping him off or not...

What this means (5, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 3 years ago | (#38324514)

FTFA:

"I won't beat around the bush," he wrote in an email. "The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that's a "D", and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

He continued, "It seems to me something is seriously wrong. I have a bachelor of science degree, two masters degrees, and 15 credit hours toward a doctorate.

The guy's quite right. He shouldn't have a bachelor, let alone two masters and 15 credit hours towards a doctorate.

Unfortunately, too many students are in a similar position. Universities have been turned into for pay degree mills, and the qualifications the higher education industry produces are generally not worth the paper they are printed on.

Re:What this means (1)

mrbester (200927) | about 3 years ago | (#38324554)

15 hours? Basically two working days? Where I come from doctorates are measured in years of work.

Re:What this means (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 years ago | (#38324682)

I'm sure he means "credit hours" (where 15 credit hours equals about a semester's worth of work, or a little more).

Re:What this means (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#38324698)

15 hours? Basically two working days? Where I come from doctorates are measured in years of work.

From WP:

In college, students typically receive credit based on the number of "lecture hours" per week in class, for one term; formally, Student Hours. Students are generally expected to spend another four to five hours outside class studying and doing homework for every hour spent in class.

So more like 15 hours * 4-5 = 60-75 hours for one semester or 30-37.5 hours for a full year. No, obviously not two days duh.

Re:What this means (1)

ciggieposeur (715798) | about 3 years ago | (#38324704)

Is the US university system, 15 hours is close to a year's worth of graduate school work. 9 hours is typically one full-time semester.

Took the test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324538)

So my conclusion is... LOL

Holy cats (1)

dixonpete (1267776) | about 3 years ago | (#38324540)

I imagine most slashdotters would barely slow down their reading before checking the correct answers for this test. I forget sometimes most people aren't like that.

It's not shocking how bad he is at math.. (1)

outsider007 (115534) | about 3 years ago | (#38324542)

But how bad he is at guessing. Everyone knows you always pick b.

Summary is a little misleading (5, Informative)

JiveDonut (135491) | about 3 years ago | (#38324552)

The test that the school board person took was for tenth graders. The sample questions linked are from two entirely different tests. The first three are for fourth graders and the second three are for eighth graders.

Re:Summary is a little misleading (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 3 years ago | (#38324576)

From TFA:

"I help oversee an organization with 22,000 employees and a $3 billion operations and capital budget, and am able to make sense of complex data related to those responsibilities."

And he couldn't answer a single question right. How much do they learn between eighth and tenth grade? Is it actually likely that the eighth-grade one is something we should all expect to get perfect on in less time than it takes to write a post about, but the tenth-grade one is so hard that a reasonable person couldn't be expected to get a single question right?

My guess is tat this guy is not able to make sense of complex data. You are

Re:Summary is a little misleading (3, Informative)

TobiX (565623) | about 3 years ago | (#38324678)

Exactly.

This is the 10th grade math course [about.com] .

I can see how a successful person from one or two generations ago could fail 100% of it.

And I don't think such material should be requirement for everybody. People with other skill sets (social, artistic, etc.) should be recognized and valued too. The world needs musicians and clothes designers and yes, managers and salesmen, as much as we need good scientists and engineers.

Meh ... (5, Funny)

lennier1 (264730) | about 3 years ago | (#38324558)

Don't act surprised. We're talking about the country where some dumb fucks managed to make creationism part of the school curriculum.

Re:Meh ... (3, Interesting)

khipu (2511498) | about 3 years ago | (#38324734)

I have less problems with the creationists and theocrats: I don't want them running the country, but at least they don't even pretend to have science on their side. Much worse are people who try to use tidbits of science to push political agendas without having the slightest idea of what they are talking about.

No inteligent information to draw conclusions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324560)

We don't see the right questions i believe. Since he made a test for 10th graders but the questions that we see in the other link are for 4th and 8th graders. So where's the exam that he took? What degres does he got?
So maybe the exams are out of focus.. or maybe he got degres and became a specialist in another area outside maths and he doesn't need specifics math skill anymore and it's out of pratice. We don't know almost anything essencial with so many words written so far.

Re:No inteligent information to draw conclusions. (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 3 years ago | (#38324640)

Nonsense, it doesn't matter what his degrees are in, or what he claims his specialty is in. A bachelors degree is a guarantee of (at least) basic numeracy, which means if he fails a high-school numeracy test, then he's not fit to be given a bachelors. Nothing else needs to be said.

Seriously? (1)

Ardeaem (625311) | about 3 years ago | (#38324562)

The article spends its entire space criticising the idea that the test is measuring something useful, and then the quiz link title is "How smart are you?".

The right hand needs to talk to the left hand over at the Post.

Surely the test in the article diff from the link? (2)

ronwolf (141966) | about 3 years ago | (#38324574)

The article mentions the board member took (and failed) a 10th grade assessment test. But the linked sample questions are from a sub-article talking about a study of 8th grade tests? Surely the test discussed in the main article is different than the linked sample.

Can it be that anyone with a high school diploma (let alone the degrees the article claims) can not only fail a test with questions like these, but then come to the opinion that the test is at fault and not their radically inadequate math and problem solving abilities? After reading all this I have decided that the article must simply be wrong- the author has had a giant practical joke played on them, or the sample test questions were from the 4th grade version?

Quite frankly, if someone with 2 post-graduate degrees (even if his masters degrees were in basket-weaving and finger painting) could only hazard guesses at questions with this level of difficulty, they should simply resign from any job related to educating others. I'd also ask for a tuition refund from their university.

Re:Surely the test in the article diff from the li (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324766)

If you have a high school diploma and fail a test that is pretty much a part of the curriculum that you have to master to get that diploma, shouldn't you probably hand it back since you obviously showed that you don't deserve it?

And yes, I do expect to be able to repeat my university degree's required qualification tests right now and pass again. That's basically what that degree is supposed to tell someone: That you mastered the required courses, that you are able to understand the matters discussed there and that you have acquired the knowledge that you are supposed to have based on the courses the degree represents.

If it doesn't, then, hell, what's the degree good for? I don't give half a shit whether you knew it back when you got the degree, what good is it to me what you knew 10 years ago? What matters to me, as your employer, is what you know NOW. And if you do not know NOW what that degree claims you know, put the degree on your toilet, there it can still serve well in case of a paper shortage.

I agree with TFA, mostly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324578)

On the other hand, I would like to see all the test questions to form a proper opinion. I took the sample questions linked and scored 5/6 (possibly due to not having studied maths in English and not bothering to look up the word "vertex"). The first five questions are definitely things that everyone needs to know to get through life in any field. On the other hand, I do think we did a lot of "useless" maths in school that I don't remember now (20 years on) and have never needed. I don't quite see the point of forcing everyone to do that.

Re:I agree with TFA, mostly (1)

Bill Currie (487) | about 3 years ago | (#38324668)

You're building a house and you need to put up a 5m long wall and a 12m long wall such that they are perfectly square to each other. How are you going to do it?

Re:I agree with TFA, mostly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324700)

Hire a construction worker?

Re:I agree with TFA, mostly (1)

Bill Currie (487) | about 3 years ago | (#38324760)

I'll give you a hint: I can do it more accurately with a long piece of string and two daubs of mud than a construction worker can do with his set-square.

Re:I agree with TFA, mostly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324732)

I think one argument for it could be similar to how I would explain the need for sports in school -- even if you don't actually use it, it keeps you fit. Assuming it's taught properly, the discipline required for Maths is also useful for thinking analytically. Posting AC because moderating.

I'm surprised students are allowed a calculator (3, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | about 3 years ago | (#38324596)

I'm surprised that students are allowed calculators to work out these problems, particularly the eighth grade students. I think mental arithmetic is a useful skill even in the age of calculators/computers/mobile phones with built in calculators.... the ability to estimate an approximate answer is sometimes more useful than the ability to provide a specific answer.

Re:I'm surprised students are allowed a calculator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324650)

The Washington Post article is just shocking. The guy failed the test but blames _everything_
but his own lack of skills. I have a 11 year old son who routinely solves that kind of mathematics here
in Finland.

Stupid test! (1)

shameless (100182) | about 3 years ago | (#38324628)

This article sounds like an arrogant person with a serious case of sour grapes: "Yeah I bombed that test, but look at me! I'm seriously successful and I don't need to use any of the stuff that's on that test anyway! Stupid test!"

I remember when I was a schoolkid other kids would whine things like "Why do I need to learn fractions? I'm never going to use them!"

Re:Stupid test! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324764)

I remember when I was a schoolkid other kids would whine things like "Why do I need to learn fractions? I'm never going to use them!"

And then they went on to never use fractions.

Those are not the questions he took! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324630)

Just a note:
That board member took a 10th grade test. The sample questions in the article are for 4th and 8th graders and might or might not be related at all.
This seems to have 10th grade tests from 2005 and 2006:
http://fcat.fldoe.org/fcatrelease.asp

Washington Post's headline is misleading (2)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 3 years ago | (#38324660)

A link at the bottom is named

"Quiz: How smart are you? Test yourself with some National Assessment of Education Progress questions."

That has little to do with how smart you are, rather how educated you are.

Not math (1)

mseeger (40923) | about 3 years ago | (#38324670)

Honestly, but this is not "math" but "calculating".

And in this case the quoted person is wrong. If you cannot do this kind of calculation, you should not make decision that impact others. Perhaps you shouldn't even make decision for yourself.

CU, Martin

fire him (1)

khipu (2511498) | about 3 years ago | (#38324692)

People can legitimately criticize multiple choice tests and a "test based culture": it doesn't make sense to determine people's futures based on minute differences in answering long lists of questions. But this test is so trivial that people who don't pass it really have no business in a white collar job or going to college. Every adult should be able to answer these questions in their head; they are necessary for basic participation in a modern economy.

I think a side remark at the beginning tells us why he is successful: he has "influential friends". It's the incompetent hiring the incompetent based on their social skills and connections. And now these people want to establish an idiocracy by eliminating even basic math from our curriculum. This kind of thing really doesn't bode well. We need more math in school, not less. Every college-bound high school student should know geometry, statistics, and basic calculus; without that, their decisions and reasoning about topics from microeconomics to climate change will just be based on hearsay, sympathies, and superstition.

Interesting Personal Note (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | about 3 years ago | (#38324714)

I took the SAT in 8th grade as part of a university study and scored 1200. I took it again for real upon graduating high school and scored 1080. However, I created a successful IT career for myself ending in managing the networks for a multinational company prior to a medical retirement.
Very timely that I just finished watching "Gattaca" again...

Wait... 10 out of 60 (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#38324736)

He guessed 10 right out of 60. In a multiple choice test with 4 possible answers each. Now, it's been a while since I was in statistics, but either that guy got REALLY unlucky with his guesswork or he's even too stupid to make an "informed guess".

More Dumbing Down of the US - From a Canadian (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#38324738)

I am a recent import from Canada to the US, working near 'Intelligently Designed' Dover, PA.
The amount of willful ignorance here in the US is shocking, even this far North.
This whole article is a symptom of the 'dumbing down' of the the US, embracing style over substance, abandoning reason for the sake of conformity.
The math questions are relatively easy (even for a sleepy dyslexic), I only had to grab a pen and paper for the hourly wages one.

Yes, there are smart people in the US, but the majority are afraid to think for themselves.
They gravitate towards the loud pompous idiots, and will ignore facts and the reality around them.
Current and past GOP candidates are a very sad commentary of American leadership (Palin for education czar, Gingrich for morals minister?).

The US is a quickly fading empire, willing to blame anyone and everyone (immigrants) but itself for becoming non-competitive in the world market.

Funny ... (1)

garry_g (106621) | about 3 years ago | (#38324752)

... didn't have a problem solving any of them, only using the calculator out for one (the 29/40 question) and that only out of laziness ... where's the problem there?
OK, I do acknowledge the world's population is getting dumber by the day ... best example: The Front-Runners of the US presidential candidates ... and the people supporting them ... obviously, how can you want people with the knowledge and the IQ of a peanut to be your representative?

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