Dear Dr. Linda,
Eddy, our son, is a 10th grader who is taking advanced math. He’s an excellent math student and wants to become an engineer. However, he’s not doing well this year because the teacher gives them timed tests. You wrote about the issue with “math-a-minute” for elementary students once. I remember reading it—Eddy was one of those kids who loved math but hated to be timed. It still makes him nervous because he processes slowly.
I’ve spoken to his math teacher many times because Eddy knows the subject, but he often doesn’t get credit for it because he simply can’t go that fast. The teacher argues that if my son is in advanced math he should be able to think quickly and that if he can’t, he can come up with strategies that will help him. He even said that if he can’t think quickly, he shouldn’t be in advanced math. I just don’t agree with him. Pat
There are two sides to this issue. The educators who argue for timed tests feel that timed tests push students to become more “fluent” mathematicians. They believe that scientists and mathematicians need to think quickly when working on complicated projects. They argue that eventually, in the workplace, basic math facts and formulas should be second nature, whether it’s in algebra, geometry, trig or calculus. And, to some extent, this is true. The more often we practice anything mentally, the better and stronger the associated neuronal connections are, and the faster those neurons “fire.” [Read more…]