## Tuesday, March 6, 2012

### Arithmetic 101

A math teacher, wanting to gauge the knowledge of his students, gives them a math test on the first day of class.  Not really a mathematics test; more of an arithmetic test, since there were no geometry or algebra or calculus or probability or data questions.

Ten questions.  Take it (without a calculator) and see how you do.  Then click on “read more” at the bottom to get the answers and the results in his class.

1.    Multiply 5.78 by 0.390

2.    Subtract 5.897 from 68.25

3.    Divide 3  1/6 by 7/18

4.    70 is what percent of 250?

5.    Find 25% of 340

6.    Find the sum of 5/6 +4/5

7.    Subtract 3  1/9 from 5  2/3

8.    Find the sum of 3.29 + 78.985 + 18

9.    Divide 51.072 by 0.56

10. Add 2/3 and 1/2, and divide the result by 5/12

Good luck.

Answers and results in his class:

3.    (Answer: 57/7 or 8  1/7)                   10% missed

6.    (Answer: 49/30 or 1  19/30)              3% missed

7.    (Answer: 23/9 or 2 5/9)                     11% missed

10. (Answer: 14/5 or 2 4/5)                    5 % missed

Pretty easy?  How did you do?  Get them all right?

Did you miss any of the decimal questions (1,2,8,9).  The class seems to have had a hard time, since the two most missed questions were decimal related.   Or was it that they were standard algorithm related, since long division solves question 9 (at least for me)?  But 48% of the class missed at least one of these questions.

Of the four questions with fractions (3,6,7,10), the highest miss rate was only 11%, but 23% of the class missed at least one of the questions.  Even if the errors were due to carelessness, this is still a concern (as per the teacher).

Thirty percent of the class missed more than one question.  Should we send them back for re-programming, or a little remedial fifth grade math?  Not bad for sixth graders (even US sixth graders – see my previous post about what the equal sign means)?

But wait, these weren’t sixth graders or even in middle school!  Egads, high schoolers who couldn’t do arithmetic?  Shame, shame.  I’m just glad it wasn’t a Greenwich High School class.

High School?  Worse.  These were primarily college freshmen.  Remedial math at the local community college?  No!  Most of these students had tested out of a whole year of college calculus via AP exams, and this was a third semester calculus course!  At Johns Hopkins University!  And their average math SAT score was 740!

The test was administered by Dr. W. Stephen Wilson in 2007.  Bad at math or just careless?  Doesn’t really matter if these are going to be the engineers designing the bridges you drive over (or under).

Several questions leap to mind.  If we don’t teach them the basics in the first place, are we doing them any favor in saying that they are “proficient” by setting the bar so low on any test they take?  Does access to calculators in grade school really help the student?  Can they really compete with the Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean students?

Time for our administration to realize that we need to focus on the basics, not just say we are.  Time to care about the kids, not just push along another lost generation!  Time to get rid of Everyday Math!

1. Hey

You did really a good job.
keep it on