They only learn half in mathematics

ltmslovApril 7, 2002

Has anyone else heard that teachers are only teaching to test in mathematics courses? For example, I was talking to a Geometry teacher and she said that they do not cover geometric proofs anylonger because none of the standardized tests test over it. My response was that it helped the students reasoning skills and their understanding of Geometry, she agreed but they only have enough time to teach for the test. I think it's terribly irresponsible of a teacher to only teach what is required to keep their job instead of educating a student for what is required for college and life. What do you think? Please respond!! :)

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I think the teachers teach what they are told to teach by the administration. I do not think the teachers develop their own curriculum. So your beef does not lie with the teacher, but in the people who are developing the curriculum.

My personal opinion of Geometric proofs is that they were useless. Much rote memorization. I went on to take 3 semesters of calc, differential equations and statistics in college, so I have lots of other math classes to compare with. Geometric proofs were useless. I am glad to see they are not teaching them any more.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2002 at 10:39PM
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I have a HUGE HUGE HUGE problem with Standardized testing!!!!!!! I am studying to be a teacher and have high aspirations for my classes I teach, I believe in humanistic teaching, and constructivist teaching...and a lot more similar methods, none of the TRADITIONAL methods, and I am sad to hear of your experience but unfortunately not at all suprised! There is too much emphasis on these standardized tests, when research proves that they aren't TEACHING our children anything!!!!!
Go to and read about what he says. He is an expert in education, and has been a teacher himself. I am reading his book now called "The Schools Our Chlidren Deserve," the whole book is wonderful, but the chapter on The Problems With Standardized Tests would probably interest you. Good luck and please e-mail me or post and let me know what you think!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2002 at 12:16AM
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There was a very interesting story in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine yesterday about teaching to the test. In one section of the article, the kids at a lawer-performing school in a lower-class area voluntarily came to test-prep seminars on the weekends, and found the reading and analyzing skills they learned there helpful. The final analysis by the writer was that in school districts in which children are already learning the skills necessary to learn, that teaching to the test is not helpful, but tha tin stressed districts, it actually has some benefits (as well as some drawbacks).

I can't say I blame the teacher for doing what's necessary to keep her job.

I personally liked geometry proofs, and felt that they did help w/ reasoning,

    Bookmark   April 8, 2002 at 2:30PM
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I agree with Mommabear that the beef isn't really with the teacher. I talk to many teachers and I think that they share the opinions of most parents when it comes to standardized tests. Teachers don't opt to give their students standardized tests. So if they are required to give their students the tests, and they have 110 mathematical concepts to cover and only enough time for 100 of them, naturally they will to teach the 100 on the test first. Afterall, if the students don't perform well on the test I don't think a single parent is going to defend the teacher with "I understand my child didn't know the material on the test, the teacher was busy with geometric proofs instead. That's OK." We would all love our kids to get the teachers who challenge and inspire their students as well as teach them. And even though most parents complain about the tests, if the kids have to take them, we won't accept a teacher who doesn't make sure they score well.

Many states and districts use the scores from those tests to determine how much money a school district or individual school will receive. If the teacher doesn't make sure to cover the test areas first, ensuring the highest possible test scores, he/she could be jeopordizing the school's funds the next year. It not only about their job.

From those I talk with, teachers are like parents. Sure there are some who try to take a lazy way out. But most teachers, like most parents, are trying to the best they can within the constrains they are given. So most of the time, complaining to a teacher about standardized tests is preaching to the chior. It is a political issue: the complaint should be directed to the school boards, the districts, and the state legislatures. There is also a double standard among parents. While on one hand many parents will "say" they don't like the tests, they will still look at a school's test scores to evaluate the school. We still want accountability from our teachers and our schools, and right now, tests scores are the only consistent way we have to show that.

Personally, I don't have a problem with my kids taking standardized tests. I have a problem with the way the scores are used. The tests and the scores should be used to identify and solve problems, not to disperse funds.

And I'll step down from my soapbox now.

As for geometry, it was the only subject in school that made me cry! I knew the triangles were congruent because I was looking at them, what do mean "proove it?" :D When my kids get there, I can help them diagram a sentence, but Dad will be the geometry expert!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2002 at 4:45PM
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If my job security and pay and the reputation of my employer were all determined by only one aspect of my job, I would put all my time and effort into succeeding at that aspect. That is only human.

For better or worse, I don't think that most teachers are in favor of increased reliance upon standardized testing. But they express their opposition by communicating with policy-makers, not by ignoring the orders they are given by those policy-makers, who after all are their bosses.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2002 at 5:24PM
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Testing is only part of improving the education of our children and evaluating how well they are learning. We need to develop standards and use/purchase/develop textbooks and lessons that develop those standards. Tests should test those standards, and under those circumstances, teaching to the test is teaching the curriculum. Students need to understand how to take a test, to follow directions and to bubble in, etc. Curriculum mapping, teacher training and student remediation should be part of this plan too. Testing is not supposed to teach anything. Testing should tell us if a student is learning, if a student is growing in his knowledge, and if students are learning what we think we are teaching them. These test results ought to assist teachers to plan lessons well, identify areas of weakness in individual students and the class as a whole, and help teachers perceive how well they have actually achieved their lessons' goals. No single test score should be the only determination of a student's achievement.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2002 at 2:02AM
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Thanks. I agree with you. The state says the kids are supposed to know x, y and z in second grade. There will be a test to see if the second graders actually know x, y, and z near the end of the school year. The teachers SHOULD be teaching x, y and z in the classroom. That IS the purpose of developing standards and testing them.

I think part of the backlash from teachers is that now they are being told what the second grade curriculum is and that they will be evaluated on how well their classes do with learning the curriculum. They have had some control taken away from them. It is human nature to be a bit resentful when someone else takes away control of something that you used to control. I realize that the entire burden of how well the kids do does not lie with the teacher, but the teacher is the ONE person who has the most influence.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2002 at 8:56AM
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I realize that some of you don't agree with my opinion, but I'm in school to become a secondary math educator. I don't want to teach my students only what is required for a standardized test; I want them to learn the reasoning skills from aspects of mathematics. Throughout mathematics we learn application and reasoning if we take that out what are we teaching them. I have a large family with thirteen siblings, my two youngest siblings can't even add 150 and 170 without a calculator. This is a shame and is due to the fact that since fifth grade in a prominant suburban school they've been using calculators in the classroom because they're allowed when testing. Does that make it right, is my siblings as educated as I am even though they can't reason their way through a simple addition problem, perhaps in other subjects but not mathematics. I have to take proof courses during my graduate courses and a couple in my remaining undergraduate requirements. Proofs help not only in the reasoning skills but in life, enabling the student to reason step by step through a scenario, but also in the upper level courses needed for many degrees. To say that a student should only be taught what is required to test is ignorant. If a teacher taught all of the curriculum thorouly than all of the needed subjects would be covered for the testing. Not all teachers choose to teach only the basic geometry but many due because they feel that the testing material is more important and so is their funding. Yet, I feel as a sister, aspiring teacher, future mother, and a taxpayer that the students should be taught all aspects of mathematics: logic, reasoning, application, and simple addition. By requiring a student to know how to add mentally and how to prove a theorem we help educate them for the future. I have a proof on every advanced college test, it is required. So perhaps some of you weren't required but who knows what your childs professor will require. I'm not saying it's all the teachers fault but some of the blame does belong there along with the administration and the people who develop the standardized tests.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2002 at 11:39PM
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I love your idealism. I remember when I had than kind of idealism. I hope you can hang on to it when you get into a classroom of your own. Absolutely students should be taught everything possible. I don't think any of us were arguing for the exclusion of proofs in geometry. But when "should" happen and what is practically possible both in the classroom and as a parent are sometimes worlds apart. Sometimes, you have to choose the lesser of two evils because what is right isn't an option at the moment. Hopefully there will always be strong, idealistic leaders who can fight to eventually make what is right the reality. But it takes time, it's much easier said than done, as a teacher and as a parent.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 12:40AM
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The people who write standardized tests can't figure out how to test for all of the reasoning and critical thinking skills that we all know indicate REAL intelligence, or the enthusiasm and inspiration and diligence that help people achieve real success. The things that can be tested aren't insignificant, but they aren't everything. But, really, what can you do about it? You can't just tell teachers, "forget about the tests, follow your heart," and expect success. You have to write better tests and train better teachers.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 1:44AM
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Why aren't geometric proofs included in standardized testing? I have a hard time believing it would be such a difficult thing to do. Sure, you would probably have to alter the fill in the bubble things a little, but that doesn't seem insurmountable. Prove this leads to that in 8 steps, here are 20 to choose from, scratch paper is provided. For that portion of the test you would have 20 bubbles to choose from instead of 4. A little complicated, but not impossible. Would the needed extra attention to detail (be sure to mark the 1 of 20 you meant to mark) make the test too difficult for some students? I am sure there is a difficulty I am not seeing.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 7:04AM
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I've seen samples of the FL test, FCAT, for elementary reading comprehension. It was not bubbled choices. Students had to write complete sentences to answer the questions about the passage they read. That portion of the test was obviously not graded by computer. Real humans had to read the answers, but the scoring was very specific. There were criteria the scorers had to look for and give points based on how many of the criteria were met.

I would think there must be some test, used somewhere, that includes proofs that a scored in a similar way.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 10:52AM
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Isn't there also a writing portion of the FCAT that is graded by people?


    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 11:14AM
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It seems to me that not putting geometric proofs on standardized has a reason. It seems to me that the reason is not a difficulty in doing so. So....what is the reason? The only possibility I can think of (I am probably missing something) is that the people who propose, write, and accept "this particular test" don't seem to think geometric proofs to be something worth bothering with for standardized tests. I imagine there is lots of consideration and debate as to what exactly to put on the tests. It would be interesting to hear the various rationals, although I would probably get suckered into a committee if I showed too much interest!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 12:48PM
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I would probably get suckered into a committee if I showed too much interest!

Duckie, I hear you there!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2002 at 1:24PM
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