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Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?


Replies to: Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?

  • toledotoledo 4877 replies291 threads Senior Member
    I think we all agree that too many students rely on calculators. But, do you really think that this remedial math class is going to go back and teach the basics that my D missed? I'm sure she'll be using her calculator from day one.
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  • JHSJHS 18503 replies72 threads Senior Member
    I suspect the basics your daughter missed have nothing to do with using a calculator or not. I'm glad her college requires something on the level of introductory statistics and probability for ECE majors, and if she doesn't yet have the skills to let her succeed in those classes (or introductory calculus) she really ought to get them.
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  • SikorskySikorsky 5745 replies106 threads Senior Member
    But, do you really think that this remedial math class is going to go back and teach the basics that my D missed? I'm sure she'll be using her calculator from day one.

    Well, if that happens, being ticked off at the college will be a totally appropriate response.
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  • sunnyfloridasunnyflorida 4637 replies153 threads Senior Member
    My guess is that she won't be using the calculator in the class much. My dad is retired and in is late 70's. He has his masters in Computer Science and his doctorate in Education. He worked for a branch of the military (civil service) in some sort of computer simulator training. To fill his time and stay sharp he teaches remedial math at the local college. His students don't get to use calculators.
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  • barronsbarrons 23094 replies1958 threads Senior Member
    I think stats and probability classes would be far more useful and fun than a calc class. Some find them more concrete and interesting as they apply directly to everday problems.
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  • PizzagirlPizzagirl 40174 replies320 threads Senior Member
    I think we all agree that too many students rely on calculators. But, do you really think that this remedial math class is going to go back and teach the basics that my D missed? I'm sure she'll be using her calculator from day one.

    Well, how else should she go about getting those basics?

    Just because she's an early childhood education major doesn't mean that she shouldn't have a basic level of math competency.

    For your square root of 95 example, she should be able to at least know that the answer lies between 9 and 10.

    I do concur that the statistics class would probably be the most interesting and most importantly the most useful for someone who is not going down a sciency-mathy type of path.
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  • camathmomcamathmom 462 replies14 threads Member
    Approximating the square root of 95 is a 7th grade math problem. It involves only basic arithmetic and approximation skills. It breaks my heart that this could be considered a difficult problem for a college student to do without a calculator.

    It is very important for someone who is going to be a teacher of young children to easily understand how to perform these simple types of calculations. IMHO it is unacceptable to graduate students from elementary teaching programs unless they have a strong understanding of math through Algebra. I applaud the college that the D of the OP attends for insisting upon this!

    I'm sorry that your D has to take an extra course, but I'm even more sorry that she arrived at college with this deficiency in math.
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  • coolweathercoolweather 5878 replies82 threads Senior Member
    This makes me remember back the days I was in HS. No digital calculator, no sliding ruler.
    I had to use a trigonometric table, a thick book to interpolate values for sine, cosine, tan,...
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  • SikorskySikorsky 5745 replies106 threads Senior Member
    I must have been on the cusp of change. When I was in high school, I had a TI-30 (which cost $30 of my own money, which was more money in the '70s than it is now) that I used for chemistry but was not allowed to use in Algebra II. In Algebra II, I also had to do linear interpolation to approximate trigonometric values.

    I've never asked my students to do that. I've also never asked them to crank-start a Model T.
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  • kitty56kitty56 1317 replies20 threads Senior Member
    When S took his math placement test, no calculators were allowed. He had some other personal issues going on at the time, plus he was not aware that he would have to take the placement test at all (not that any of that should make a difference). He did not do very well, but got permission to take discrete math. Boy, he struggled with that. Got through it, but I think the placement test may have been correct. He took calc I and prob. and stat. after that and got A's in those though. Discrete was tough for him.
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  • JHSJHS 18503 replies72 threads Senior Member
    The math placement/assessment tests I have seen where calculators are not permitted rarely require any kind of complex calculation. Anything that seems to require calculation on them is more often than not a red herring. I took one such test a few years ago for fun, and I spent five minutes trying to solve a problem only to realize -- when I looked at the answer choices -- that all I really had to know was whether the slope of a particular linear equation was positive or negative, something that required about 10 seconds of thought, if that. On this test, anyone who thought she needed her calculator was probably missing the point of half the questions.
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  • saxsax 5272 replies156 threads Senior Member
    You are not allowed a calculator while taking the GRE (graduate record exam).
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3212 replies45 threads Senior Member
    I'm in an office suite with the developmental math specialist at work. Lots of students wind up in those classes, and many are angry about it (but I was in AP/honors math!). The math specialist does allow the use of calculators on the algebra exams but sets up the problems so that the student can't work them without knowing the math concepts. No calculators allowed on the basic math test. Bottom line, it is really better to take the review classes if they're needed.

    My own d's hs calculus teacher came out of retirement tonteach calc again this year. No graphing calculators allowed. No formula sheets allowed on the exams. It's rough, but my suitemate thinks it's great. She'll know her calc.
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  • mtnmommamtnmomma - 282 replies4 threads Junior Member
    In your situation, I'd be annoyed and disappointed and frustrated, too. But I don't
    think the college is really the right entity for you to be ticked off at.
    Schools have 12 years to teach at least arithmetic and algebra. That is a very, very long time. If the schools aren't doing their jobs, then parents have to step in to fill the void. The problem is that parents often don't know that there is a problem.

    You should be ticked off at yourself, the middle school, the high school, and the college! You should be asking the middle school why your D did not learn basic middle school math (I am assuming she did ok in middle school math). You should ask the high school how your daughter was allowed to take advanced math courses without being required to have a basic understanding of math. You should ask the college why they accepted your daughter when she wasn't prepared for college level math. And last but not least you should see what part of this was something you didn't look into. Did D get standardized test results back during grades 6-11 that showed her math skills were weak? Many parents choose to ignore this information and chalk it up to being invalid (after all D is in advanced math so she must know what she is doing).

    Sorry to sound so negative but until parents start demanding that their children are college ready (and not just college eligible) the problem will continue. Parents need to demand that their A students get top grades on standardized tests and not listen to any half baked excuses given by high schools (I work at one, I've heard them all) as to why they aren't. If colleges refused to accept any student that needed remedial classes, I guarantee you would see a jump in the quality of the high school program because the parents would demand it.

    At my hs we work very hard to get students to pass Alg II so they can get into a state school--no one seems to care (including the parents) if the student is ready to take the next course in the sequence (Trig) or not, it's all about getting in.

    So bravo OP for questioning what is up here. I can guarantee it is not a calculator issue.
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  • fignewtonfignewton 1405 replies9 threads Senior Member
    I find it hard to separate typical usage of the calculator from the issue of how well students are learning math, especially in the years prior to high school. (I don't believe anyone is suggesting a return to trig tables, etc.)

    Standardized tests that allow calculators can easily obfuscate the assessment of math proficiency. Instead, these tests are assessing something different, even on the ACT and SAT, which are putatively constructed to make calculator use a minor advantage (if any).

    An egregious example, perhaps, would be K-6 math here in NJ, where, until the spring of this year, calculators were used extensively in the assessment tests (called "NJ ASK"). The use of calculators on the test was reduced to 20% of the questions (from essentially 100%) when it was discovered that "this practice has obscured our ability to measure with confidence students grasp of foundational math skills in mathematics operations." (quoting the NJ Dept of Ed)

    BTW, the GRE will start allowing calculators in August, 2011.
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  • garlandgarland 16538 replies206 threads Senior Member
    ^Interesting. I took the GRE last year, after not having taken math since high school, more than 30 years before. Just brushing up on really simple algebra concepts, I (full brag mode here) got a 750 on the test. I think it was more of a reasoning test than a math knowledge test, but I was actually more comfortable doing calculations on paper than i would have been with a calculator.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13762 replies113 threads Senior Member
    Ooooh, my kids' HS math teachers were incensed at how dependent kids were on calculators by the time they got to HS, and these were kids in the top math classes. Some learned lots of bad habits in MS and then got to Alg II w/Functions and had tippy-top students who couldn't reason out the problems. I've been on other listserves in my area where this is a common complaint among math teachers. The folks who teach Alg II/trig seem to be the ones who bear the brunt of these kids' poor preparation.

    My math major was fine, but my humanities guy really struggled til he went back and re-learned what he should have been taught the first time around. (His Alg II and AB Calc teachers were MIT grads. Both had major portions of their tests where calculators weren't allowed.)

    S1 hasn't had a math course in college where a calculator was allowed.

    OP, a lot of school systems started pushing 7-8 years ago to get more kids into Algebra sooner, but in a lot of schools, the net effect was to water down Algebra I. We're now seeing the results. A lot of kids were done a disservice, and unless parents happened to be pretty attuned to what good math instruction looks like, it is easy to think your kid is doing just fine. Let me be clear, I'm not knocking acceleration -- one of my kids definitely thrived on radical subject acceleration -- but in the process to get more kids into higher math, the basics went by the wayside.

    GRE is now going to allow calculators? Bet S1 will be glad he just took the current version of the GRE!
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6951 replies143 threads Senior Member
    mtnmomma wrote:
    If colleges refused to accept any student that needed remedial classes, I guarantee you would see a jump in the quality of the high school program because the parents would demand it.
    I agree with you up to here. There will always be those students, non-traditional students, etc., who are good candidates, but who need some additional brushing up or remediation in their math skills. Right now, there are far too many, but one would not want to see colleges eliminate those services altogether.
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  • colorado_momcolorado_mom 9473 replies83 threads Senior Member
    An example she mentioned from the test was the square root of 95. I don't know what her choices were so I can't comment on how difficult that would be to solve.

    Umm... what purpose would be served to have a math question like that and then allow a calculator? To show the student knows how to press the square root button?

    I actually do have some sympathy for need of calculator on a word problem with complicated calculations. But not for that example, for the reasons give by prior posters.

    I do think it makes sense to firm up basic math concepts like that before attempting college math classes. It is too bad that the MS/HS math teacher didn't catch on to this. OP has a right to be annoyed, but not annoyed at the college.

    PS - Perhaps anxiety factored in there too, with lack of the familiar calculator (whether used or not). Good luck!
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  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 22635 replies127 threads Senior Member
    I just had a look at Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics for grades 6, 7 and 8. Editions were from the early 1990s. In the Grade 6 book, square roots were an enrichment exercise. In the Grade 7 book, they had two pages on it with a little on estimation. In the Grade 8 book, they showed an algorithm for estimating irrational square roots - there was considerable coverage and plenty of exercises. I would consider these textbooks average and ordinary. Some of the estimation, critical thinking and number sense was new with the previous revision of the NCTM standards.
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