Friday, November 5, 2010

The world has more than five choices

I never used multiple choice tests in Denmark. I think it was the greatest shock when I met the American educational system. Here are some ways to move beyond, and still prepare students for those tests.
In an article I received today in the Education Week Teacher newsletter, Classroom Assessments for a New Century Heather Wolpert-Gawron describes her "quest to move beyond the bubble test."
The world does not present five choices for every problem we meet, nor can everything be solved with standard formulas. If the math we teach is to be useful beyond the test, our students have to learn to think and apply concepts to practical applications. Math may be elegant for mathematicians, but it's a tool for everyone else.
In Denmark I taught languages, not math, but we had enormous freedom about what we taught. There is a certain basis knowledge required at each level, and in the latest standards, every class has to work on a particular "theme," which can be cross-departmental. I have a list of various themes used in math, along with the requirements for a written report. The final exam in Danish schools is two-part: a written (not multiple-choice) test on the basic requirements and an oral exam at the school "censored" by a teacher from another school on the theme. This time is always very inspirational for the censors, because they get new ideas they can use in their own schools.
This is a busy day for me. I will soon be off to my new school to sign the employment contract and discuss my duties - and then participate in the regular Friday Professional Development afternoon with my new colleagues.
After that I'll be off to Palm Springs for the California Math Council's Southern California conference.
(and a concert with the LA Phil on Sunday completes a very busy weekend!)

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