Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stupid Math

The question on the eighth grade test asked something like this.  Sarah's class is building a  model town.  If a car that measures 15 feet is represented with a 3 inch model, how large would the model of  building that is 35 feet tall, be?"

Pearl added 3 to 35 and wrote 38 (not inches or feet since I guess it was some combination of the both).
I said nothing
Hey!  It was the state exam- I didn't want to lose my hard earned  pension.  

Last week during final test week preparation, Pearl put her pencil down, sighed, and said,  "I hate this, I can't do it! I hate stupid math!"

Hardworking, pretty and the most good-natured of the eighth grade inclusion group, my first thought  was Pearl doesn't deserve this.  She comes into school everyday with a book bag full of supplies, an open mind and a desire to do well.

And what does she get.

Stupid math questions.

Not the one above.  The one above is good math question.  I want to build a model town in the classroom. I want students to figure out the scale of the model cars and the model buildings.  I want them to figure out where the buildings should go and how the town could be designed for less cars and more energy efficiency.  I want them to make decisions on where to build schools and theaters and sport stadiums.

Pearl would ponder all those things.  It would be hard for her. The world doesn't scale up or down easily in her mind.   To her reflecting an image means labeling it with backward letters.  If the shape reverses the letters should too!

She's a good girl.  And she wants to do the right thing.  She would work very hard at a good model town. She would work very hard at making good decisions for the model town.  And she might grow up to make good decisions about a real town.

But we don't really make model towns.  We factor polynomials and reflect irregular quadrilaterals around a coordinate grid, and  solve for x in a multi-term inequality.

Because all those things are rigorous tasks.

We don't build scale model towns in the back of our classrooms.  We build piles of test prep workbooks.

Pearl hates stupid math.
I hate stupid math tests.

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