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Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?

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Replies to: Math Placement Test Without a Calculator?

  • deb922deb922 Registered User Posts: 5,694 Senior Member
    My kids found that it was always good to look on the college website and to see how all placement tests were administered. I am sure that there is detailed information on placement tests and also practice tests. The practice test should detail how that test will be taken and what is expected.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,927 Senior Member
    Just a belated comment that as a 30+ year faculty member in the sciences, I've seen lots of entering students who accepted the results of the math placement exam, and started where the university suggested, and a large number of students who thought they were beyond the recommended starting point. Generally, it did not go well for students to place themselves higher than the recommended class. The students who started where the placement exam results had suggested did much better overall. Granted, they had to take math longer--but a student who takes a higher-level course and has to drop it will also wind up taking longer. Taking the remedial class will also allow more time for work on other courses, rather than drowning in work in math.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 18,313 Senior Member
    I was thinking about the initial post some more overnight, and I realize it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the placement test.

    Here's an analogy. Suppose someone takes a heart stress test. They have to walk on a treadmill, or ride an exercise bike, and the machines measure how their heart is doing. If the test says the heart isn't doing so well, the person wouldn't respond, "But I was forced to WALK three miles. When I need to go three miles, I don't walk! I drive! Why weren't we allowed to use cars?!" That's so beside the point.

    And it's the same for the placement test. If I wanted to know the square root of 95, I'd use a calculator. But I *can* figure out a pretty good estimate for the square root of 95 by hand-- actually with Newton's method I can figure out a very good estimate-- if I need to, and that's one indication that I know enough math to take college level math classes.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,755 Senior Member
    BCEagle91 wrote:
    Fractions are quite complicated as presented. Adults usually don't see it that way as they are familiar with the implicit framework around fractional operations.
    One of the biggest problems remedial algebra students have is with rational expressions. Most suffer from what I call cancelitis - (ex. (x+1)/(x-3) = -1/3), or worse, from hemorrhagic cancelitis (all such expressions can be canceled until they equal 1), a condition which is rarely curable.
  • toledotoledo Registered User Posts: 5,032 Senior Member
    But I *can* figure out a pretty good estimate for the square root of 95 by hand-- actually with Newton's method I can figure out a very good estimate--

    But what grade did you learn Newton's method? Heck, I don't remember anything about a "Newton's method". Part of the problem, as I see it, is that math classes don't go back and review concepts from earlier years. Those of you who remember are lucky. If I thought my daughter would learn all the basics she's forgotten, or how to do problems without a calculator, I'd be more than thrilled to have her take a remedial class. I just don't see it happening. The name of the "remedial" class is Elementary Algebra 2.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,755 Senior Member
    toledo - how does your D feel about having to take the remedial course?
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 18,313 Senior Member
    Look, this was a multiple choice test. She was given four or five possible answers and she had to pick the best one. She didn't need Newton's method. All she needed was to know what a square root is, and how to multiply two numbers. Obviously the answer is between 9 (the square root of 81) and 10 (the square root of 100). If there were several answers that looked plausible, all she had to do was square each one, and see which one was closest.

    Square roots and multiplication are not arcane mathematical concepts. She should know them. If she doesn't, she isn't remotely ready for calculus.
  • toledotoledo Registered User Posts: 5,032 Senior Member
    If she doesn't, she isn't remotely ready for calculus.

    I don't think she'll ever take calculus. In my previous post, I mentioned taking the two statistics classes in order to avoid calculus.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 18,313 Senior Member
    If she hasn't fully mastered square roots and multiplication, she's not ready for statistics either.

    I tutored at a remedial algebra class at my local community college. The college's assessment test, it seemed to me, didn't place anyone there who didn't belong there. Like your daughter, most of the students in that class were taking it as a prerequisite for statistics.

    By the way, depending on schedules your daughter might be able to take her remedial class at a community college in the summer, saving you the cost of an extra class at her school. Community colleges have a lot of experience in math remediation.
  • 3drummersathome3drummersathome Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    "In elementary school, we teach kids facts and procedures and sometimes we toss in properties. In general, I don't believe that the terms associative, commutative, distributive, existence, identity and inverse are used but the ideas are. "

    I definitely teach the terms and the procedures for commutative, associative, and inverse with my second graders. I can't speak to all my colleagues but this is in our standards for our grade level.
    I think one of the hardest things for me with incoming second graders is getting them to realize that "=" doesn't mean "this is where you put the answer". When we work on the commutative property and a problem is simply 8+2 = __ +8, they would want to put 10 in the blank. It's being 7 years old I know. It is fun to watch when it starts to make sense and how they can play with numbers.
    I KNOW many kids do not get a complete understanding of number sense. I get so many parents who will say "I was never good at math either" and just dismiss the subject as a possibility for their kids even in elementary school. I love stretching their mathematical little minds :)
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Registered User Posts: 3,195 Senior Member
    Be careful with taking remedial courses as community colleges. Often, those courses don't transfer. They aren't always considered college level and so don't transfer. As always, check it out before enrolling. However, taking them might enable a student to do better on the placement test,
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 6,755 Senior Member
    I would think she would not need to transfer the remedial course, simply to request to take a new placement test. She would have to make sure the course is actually Elementary Algebra II and not Elementary Algebra I, however.
  • idadidad Registered User Posts: 5,028 Senior Member
    Most of these preparatory courses are called developmental not remedial courses. The focus is on developing the skills necessary to succeed in the higher level courses. This is a different approach than simply remediating a math deficit. The two overlap, but often the objectives are different. Look at the success rate of students who took the developmental courses in the higher level courses. The math department or institutional research department will have the data. I think one will find that those with a B or better do quite well in later math classes. Taking a developmental course is not such a terrible thing.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 18,313 Senior Member
    Whether the course is called remedial or developmental, it's the same course-- it prepares students for higher level math classes.

    Like Sylvan, I think the point of taking the remedial/developmental class at community college is to gain the knowledge. It doesn't matter whether the course transfers, if the math material stays in Toledo's daughter's brain.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Registered User Posts: 22,762 Senior Member
    > But what grade did you learn Newton's method? Heck, I don't remember anything
    > about a "Newton's method".

    Newton's method requires finding the derivative of a function to solve a general problem so you wouldn't see it before calculus to solve general problems.

    It can be introduced much earlier, though, as a technique for finding square roots or solving the equation y=x^2 - a where you want to find the square root of a. I would expect this to be an enrichment thing outside of a numerical methods course.
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