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Can someone who actually knows tell us what kinds of math questions were on the test? It's hard to come to any conclusions without any details, and the article didn't seem to include any pointers to the test itself.

My personal axe to grind is that number theory and basic finance, rather than calculus, should be taught to teenagers.

And in my own US public schooling, I found the teachers completely unable to provide any intuition whatsoever behind calculus. It wasn't until two decades later, when I was studying computational finance for fun, that I actually really understood integration as something other than symbol manipulation. Seriously, this whole "teach to the test" mentality may get kids to answer correctly by rote over the short term, but doesn't help them to learn much in the long run -- at least if they're intuitive learners.

Junior in college-prep high school here. The math questions are really easy: basic algebra, geometry, and trig. I can do it in my sleep, and I barely studied for that test and did well.

I agree with you fully, kids need to be taught based on what they want to do. I've wanted to be an entrepreneur for a while now and the only class that interests me in school is journalism (I enjoy writing). The math class is a joke, English is boring, and the rest of the classes are boring.

After 20 years of not using basic algebra, geometry, or trig, you'll forget it too.

It's very hard to imagine you'll forget it, but it really is true. I used to be able to solve integrals while being too drunk to walk, but nowadays basic trig would require substantial effort for me. Time does that.

Agreed. I'm taking the online Stanford AI-class at the moment, and it's been half my lifetime since I used some of the necessary skills. Even just re-arranging a formula is slow going for me at the moment. But I am improving.

The article doesn't even say what state the gentleman comes from, and the tests still vary state-to-state. That's changing, with PARCC[1], but that's not really relevant to this article.


Virgina releases their tests every year (most states don't; it's expensive), and since this is the WaPo, it could be a VA test. Here's a link to their 2010 exam: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/released_tests/2010/...

edit: It's unlikely he's from VA, though, because VA doesn't do a standardized 10th grade math test. They give End-of-Course tests instead; statewide finals, essentially.

Thanks very much for this link. I find these tests really interesting. I work as a Maths teacher in the UK. The 8th Grade Maths test, question 34, caused a lot of debate in the evening Maths class I have just taught (we had some of the questions up on the projector as a novelty).

How old would most 8th Grade students be? And how long would they have to complete the test?

Multiple choice questions are not widely used within the exam system in the UK. There are 'Skills for Life' qualifications aimed at adults who missed out at school in Literacy and Numeracy that are MCQ based. The link below will take you to some practice tests (both pdf paper based and tests designed to be completed on screen). What do you think of those?


8th grade students are 13-14. Students generally start in Kindergarten at 5; Americans don't enjoy 0-indecies, but Kindergarten is Grade 0. You can extrapolate from there for the other years.

I don't teach in VA, but according to the implementer's guide[1], it's un-timed. From my experience, I'd say probably 2 or 3 hours for the 50 math questions, depending on the student's skill.


I haven't worked enough (at all) in adult ed to comment in depth on these, but they look like they'd cover a lot of the important stuff for a basic job and your general day-to-day numeracy and literacy.

Here are sample 10th grade math tests from MA and TX. Unclear where this person is from, but this will give you a decent idea: http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/2011/release/g10math.pdf http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/resources/o...

Huh. This looks like stuff any business owner should know. I looked through these briefly and didn't see any trig or calculus. I could see someone maybe not remembering some of the terminology ("congruent", "similar", etc.) but it's very surprising to me that someone who runs a successful company would have trouble with either of these tests, unless there was very significant time pressure.

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