Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Culturally/Gender Biased Test Questions

We were practicing problems for our TAKS test, and 2 funny incidents came up.

First problem: a baseball diamond has 60 feet between the bases. How far is it from home plate to 2nd base?

Some of the girls in my class indicated that they did not know what a baseball diamond looked like. Now we were working on the Pythagorean Theorem, so it had to be a square ... but they didn't know the layout of the bases. We discussed it. Then, being a good teacher (cough), I wanted to link it to something, so I asked if they'd heard about boys getting to 1st base, etc. But I digress; the point is that if we hadn't happened upon this practice problem, and they got it on their exam, they may get it wrong not for not knowing the math, but for not knowing baseball.

Second problem: What information do you need to figure out to know how much material is needed for a basketball? (surface area? volume? ....)

I thought this was obvious (surface area), but then a child asked me why it wasn't volume. I started to explain, and then she said, "oh! there's no stuffing inside?" I'd never thought of that, and explained that it was just air inside. Then I thought about it. There are sports balls that have stuffing inside (baseballs, softballs, ...). We could think of 3 more in addition to those 2 when we brainstormed. Anyway, ARGH sports problems and non-sports people!

9 comments:

  1. Ha, Ha! My freshmen had a tough time with the one about surface area and the basketball. Most thought it was volume!

    I'm not worried about my 9th graders. I gave a full length test last week and only had a couple in each class make below 60. A big change from teaching in West Texas.

    I am however, terrified for my 11th graders. They did not do well on their practice test and that was after 4 solid weeks of review.

    But, my math models kids, don't tend to try too hard until it really, really matters. They just get tired and start guessing.

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  2. Phew! It wasn't just my kids :)

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  3. We had a question on a state assessment about downloading music and should it be free. We have a small population of Amish students who were completly confused at what that even meant.

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  4. Sheesh...I wouldn't have even thought of that aspect with Amish kids.

    Ms. Cookie

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  5. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Were they able to work out any part of the baseball diamond problem?

    ... being a diamond, it doesn't really matter where you put home or which direction you number the bases, as long as you put the bases on vertices. Did they get that or did the baseball part completely throw them?

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  6. Well, I think as 14/15 year-old girls, they freaked out at the sports reference and didn't try to reason it out. Their 1st impulse was to get clarification. That probably would have been a good teaching moment for me to get them to use common sense. ... Ah, missed opportunities.

    Ms. Cookie

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  8. I love the different types of balls reference! I teach Geometry and will definitely use that to help kids understand next year. Another good example I like to use is the tradeoff between different shapes / sizes of cans. The soup inside might be the same (volume), but if you use a different shape container, the amount of aluminum (surface area) would change, and that would totally change the cost for shipping products! There's a good NCTM lesson on this, but their questions, in my opinion, are too abstractly worded, and you'd have to re-work it to make it work for your kids.

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