Friday, October 30, 2015

Timed Tests and Homeschooling

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When I was a kid I was always in the advanced classes. By the fourth grade we were sorted into ability levels and I was always in with the smart kids. That was all well and good for most of my subjects. But that wasn't good. If you were a smart kid in those days you were in with the upper echelon kids, with regards to grades, GPAs, in all subjects.

One problem for me was that I was excellent in all classes except for one: MATH. To this very day I can't do math.

In some ways I can take some of my math fear back to times tests. I recall a timed test in the second grade, Mrs. Allison's class, the class when I realized that I didn't get math. This was the moment when I knew that I might have done better on the quiz if I had not felt the pressure of the timed test. On the other hand, when it came to super-fast speed reading, I was top of the class. I would imagine that kids who didn't enjoy reading were turned off on reading forever with those speed reading activities.

Back to math, later on we did the timed multiplication tests in Mrs. Cataneo's class. While I began to ace the times tables, I hated the tests. And later still, the pressure of the math quiz on Fridays in my seventh grade math class still bothers me. I wonder if my own math ability might have changed had someone tried to pique my interest in math rather than to attempt to force performance upon me.

Timed tests. I hate them. 

When John was younger I could see that he was very adept in math, in whatever those skills are that make a person excellent in math. I tried giving him times multiplication tests. At one point he simply put his pencil down and said I won't take timed tests, Mom.

How did he know?
How did John know that the timed aspect of the work was optional and was counterproductive? 
When given unlimited time to complete his work he could finish that work in minutes and finish it well. But add a timing device and his performance went all to hell. Without the stopwatch, John enjoys the math and logic challenges and even does analogy workbooks just for fun.

Timed tests, in my experience, don't display a child's ability level, but, rather, they display a child's ability to handle stress. From my reading lately, I see that school administrators are struggling to make improvements in the performance of their students, but I strenuously question some of their efforts. How can creating math anxiety help improve performance in math students?

I haven't really followed schooling and education trends; I'm not even specifically certain what is meant by the Common Core Standards that are so in the news these days. But one thing that I am certain of is that performance anxiety can never compete with help in appreciating the beauty of a well-turned math problem.

My friend just posted this article by her dad:

President Obama Finally Opts in 

for Personalized Teaching over Standardized Testing

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