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Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?


Replies to: Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?

  • JHSJHS 18299 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,369 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 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,428 Senior Member
    You are not allowed a calculator while taking the GRE (graduate record exam).
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 3157 replies43 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,200 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 discussions- Posts: 286 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 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,414 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 15894 replies198 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 16,092 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 13321 replies110 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 13,431 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 6633 replies140 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,773 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 8838 replies78 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 8,916 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 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 22,762 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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  • idadidad 4849 replies179 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,028 Senior Member
    S1 was not allowed to use a calculator for his calculus placement exam at UChicago, nor for his in-class exams during the year, if I recall correctly. Relying on calculators will likely not pay-off in college.
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  • NewAccountNewAccount 1832 replies50 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,882 Senior Member
    ^ Oh dear..
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  • rocketman08rocketman08 1178 replies16 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,194 Senior Member
    Doing math in your head or on scratch paper is ideal, but is it really expected of students in this day and age?

    Yes it is, as it should be.

    Calculators can be very useful in many situations and I by no means would suggest banning them completely from the classroom, but if one can't perform basic maths without a calculator then yes a remedial maths course seems only appropriate.
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  • McPucks1357McPucks1357 380 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 388 Member
    The GRE is indeed allowing a calculator on the revamped exam, but it is their calculator. It's a simple on-screen 4 function one.
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  • college_ruledcollege_ruled 1223 replies20 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,243 Senior Member
    For my Calc I and II classes I could not use a calculator on exams, and students were discouraged to use them on homework. I understand that this is standard practice in the math department at my college. While I had an adjustment from "calculator" high school math to "non calculator" college level math, I am so glad that I know how to use my brain for mathematical thinking now. As an added bonus, I know that my work is wrong on my math exams if I'm getting a funky number.
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