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State kids failing graduation test, so drop math requirement?

With so many Minnesota kids failing the big graduation math test, the solution to the problem is … ? Steve Brandt of the Strib says: “With nearly a third of high school students at risk of failing Minnesota’s high-stakes exit exam for math, some educators say it’s time the state dropped the requirement. On Tuesday a panel of educators is expected to recommend changes in the state’s school-testing regimen. Dropping the exit exams would require action by the Legislature.”

The public will be getting an education in the full meaning and limitations of the so-called Castle Doctrine law after the Little Falls shootings. John Croman of KARE-TV has a good piece setting up the discussion: “‘The biggest misconception is that self-defense law is something simple, that would fit on a bumper sticker,’ John Caile, a firearms instructor for 40 years, told KARE. ‘I spend a good three and a half hours on just the legal part in my classes, which is more than a lot of people do.’ He says those who buy weapons to defend themselves in their homes need to understand in Minnesota there’s no such thing as automatic immunity from prosecution for shooting another person. ‘So there’s no duty to retreat inside your house. That does not mean that your house is a free fire zone, and you get to shoot anyone who walks through the door,’ Caile explained. ‘It’s one of the few times where you walk into court, freely admitting you did it, and now you have to explain to the jury why they should not send you to prison.’ The prosecution still has the burden of proving that the shooting wasn’t justified, but defendants in self-defense cases often face what’s known as the ‘burden of production’ — to produce evidence backing their perspective.”

A ray of sunlight over Richfield … . According to MPR’s Martin Moylan, “Best Buy seems to have gotten off to a good start to the holiday shopping season. The consumer electronics retailer had the nation’s third-busiest retail website on Black Friday, according to comScore, which measures Internet traffic. The company said Best Buy ranked behind Amazon and Walmart but ahead of Target. ComScore would not disclose visitor counts. A Deutsche Bank retail analyst pronounced Best Buy a ‘big winner’ over the past weekend because a survey revealed 86 percent of Best Buy stores were busy. But the analyst said he was unsure how much of that traffic was converted into sales.” Oh, come on. It’s a short parade. Don’t rain on it.                           
New details on Minnesota Orchestra board decisions aren’t helping its case with musicians. Kristin Tillotson of the Strib reports: “At a Monday news conference, Tim Zavadil, leader of the musicians’ negotiating team, questioned the board’s ‘hiding large deficits’ during the recession so as not to negatively affect fundraising for a new hall and a bonding request before the Legislature. Zavadil also wondered why management chose to draw larger amounts from its endowments than the 5 percent generally accepted as prudent. Minutes from a 2010 finance committee meeting show members being advised that ‘a draw over 5 percent is irresponsible.’ In response, orchestra president Michael Henson said Monday that he and the board had to find ‘short-term solutions’ to the deficits, with a goal of returning to long-term stabilization.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is “absolutely confident” he is not the target of a criminal investigation. The AP’s Scott Bauer reports: “The governor, who hired high-profile criminal defense attorneys from Chicago and started a legal-defense fund, met voluntarily with prosecutors in April. He has insisted he did nothing wrong and did not know that county workers were illegally campaigning while on the job. … Prosecutors revealed emails that showed regular contact between Walker’s county executive and gubernatorial campaign staffs. The emails showed workers held daily telephone meetings, discussed how to handle politically sensitive topics and even suggested planting stories in the press to distract attention from problems at Milwaukee County’s mental health hospital, where nine people have died since 2010. Walker repeated Monday that he had no knowledge of anyone in his county office doing illegal campaign work, and that if he had, he would have stopped it. … ‘It defies reasonable belief that Scott Walker was completely ignorant of the fact that he was surrounded by people committing criminal acts in his office as county executive,’ Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said Monday. ‘It is not believable. If true, it raises serious questions about his management ability, including who he chooses to surround himself with.’”

Kind of like the haggard guy at the bottom of one of those outdoor escalators in Vegas holding a sign that said, “Why Lie? I need a beer,” you have to hand it to a company that calls itself, simply, Liquor Boy. John Ewoldt of the Strib says: “Just in time for the busiest month of the year for liquor stores, [John] Wolf opened Liquor Boy in St. Louis Park Monday with everyday low prices on more than 900 wines, as well as liquor and beer. Why does he expect the everyday-low-price concept to work on alcohol when it didn’t work on sweaters and towels at JC Penny? ‘People know the price on wine and liquor,’ he said. ‘They can’t tell what a shirt should cost.’ Wolf said his 10,000-square-foot store, between Office Max and PetSmart on Cedar Lake Road, will be unique in the Twin Cities, except for ‘no sale’ pricing at Chicago Lake Liquors in south Minneapolis, which he also owns.”

The Shattuck school sex scandal now has an official St. Paul connection. Madeleine Baran of MPR reports: “Joseph Machlitt, who faces criminal charges for allegedly sexually abusing a boy in 1980 at a Faribault boarding school, recently worked as a substitute teacher at a private school in St. Paul. St. Paul Academy and Summit School, which employed Machlitt as a substitute teacher, notified parents, faculty, staff and trustees about the charges via email on Friday. … Court records do not indicate when Machlitt moved back to Minnesota or whether he has worked at other schools.”

I know I hate nothing more than driving up and down the street and never finding The Love Doctor. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “Passengers along the Central Corridor will soon be able to find The Love Doctor at all hours of the day or night. The St. Paul Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-to-1 on Monday, Nov. 26 to allow the adult novelties shop at 1607 W. University Ave. to install a 20-1/2-square-foot illuminated sign, extending up to four feet perpendicular to the sidewalk. The size represents what board members saw as a compromise, as the zoning code allows for 16 square feet, projecting no more than three feet over the public sidewalk. Store owner Troy Decorsey had asked for a sign measuring 25 square feet, projecting four feet.”

Sally Jo Sorensen digs up minutes from a Southwest Metro Tea Party meeting for her Bluestem Prairie blog: “In a  ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ panel on November 19, state representative-elect Cindy Pugh (R-33B) shared her thoughts with the SW Metro Tea Party, a group she co-founded. …[H]ere’s the introduction along with the summary of what Pugh had to say: ‘Tonight’s program, “Where Do We Go From Here?” featured a panel discussion with Mary Amlaw, Paul Carlson, David Fitzsimmons and Cindy Pugh. There was an individual presentation from each panel member and then questions were taken from the audience. …  Cindy Pugh has optimism despite the election. Cindy listed the threats we face: (1) An illiterate, disengaged and lazy electorate. (2) The physical size and scope of our government. (3) The media. (4) The progressive movement – on both sides of the aisle. (5) The infiltration of the Muslim brotherhood.’” By the sound of it, I think she might be better off fearing brain-eating amoeba.

Comments (39)

  1. Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 11/27/2012 - 07:40 am.

    About dropping the math test . . . . . .

    Before I fall into some sort of an outraged response, perhaps one of the teachers here can comment on whether it’s actually a good math test? Does it ask appropriate questions? Does it fairly test for the subject matter as taught? Are there any mismatches between what and how teachers are told to teach and what students encounter when they sit down to the test?

    There may be other questions, but those are the ones that occur to me right offhand. I’d be interested in hearing teachers’ (especially math teachers’) thoughts on this.

    • Submitted by Rich Crose on 11/27/2012 - 08:56 am.

      It’s a Government Conspiracy

      In order to raise more revenue without raising taxes, the government has to get people to volunteer to pay more taxes. Thus, gambling –a tax on people who are bad at math.

      How do you encourage people to gamble? Eliminate the math requirement.

      Have some tea with Cindy Pugh. She’ll tell you all about that.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/27/2012 - 09:33 am.

      I need a favor Pat

      I have the misfortune of living in Pugh’s district. It’s clear I’m going to need to borrow your outrage and add it to mine.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 11/27/2012 - 11:18 am.

        You have my sympathy

        After reading Brian’s piece, I googled Cindy Pugh, and all I can say is Oh. My. God.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/27/2012 - 10:46 am.


      While I’m glad that no one has suggested (in public, at least) Virginia’s and Florida’s supposed solution to their education problems (, my kneejerk reflex on dropping the math test requirement is pretty negative. Any explanations?

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/27/2012 - 08:13 am.

    Never taught math

    I taught history, not math, but my off-the-cuff response is similar to Pat Berg’s series of questions. As long as we’re going to insist on these kinds of tests (a separate issue), a more appropriate response to the failure of a large segment of the tested population might be to revise the test (Pat’s question, “Does it fairly test for the subject matter as taught” is relevant here), rather than to drop the requirement. Just sayin’…

  3. Submitted by richard owens on 11/27/2012 - 09:21 am.

    The Castle Doctrine is a brainchild of ALEC.

    Rep. Tony Cornish runs his entire legislative agenda to please the NRA and keep his A+ rating.

    Wise journalists would interview Rep. Cornish about his “shoot first” laws and his advocacy of concealed carry EVERYWHERE, including College campuses.

    As an advocate of “self-defense”, it is time he defend his views in the press.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/27/2012 - 04:01 pm.

      Sure, that’s going to happen.

      Not. Minnesota law already recognizes the right of proportional self defense, as in “once they’re down, and unarmed you can’t kill them.”

      Little Falls was the topic of the day at the cafe where I had breakfast this morning, with most agreeing that principle. At least one person, however, was of the opinion that once the kids entered the house, it should have been the homeowner’s decision as to where it went from there. I wasn’t quite certain how she felt about the kill shot to the girl, though she seemed OK with the idea that shooting her in the chest after she laughed at the homeowner was fine.

  4. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 11/27/2012 - 09:42 am.

    Those 5 threats Ms Pugh is worried about are hilarious, each for their own reason. 1) Blame it on the lazy, illiterate, and disengaged voters (whom you need to appeal to again in 2 years). 2) The damn government, which she hates but wants so desperately to be part of. 3) The media. Ah, the perpetual whipping boy. But if voters are so disengaged and illiterate, should it matter? 4) The progressive movement on “both sides of the aisle”??? I can only presume that she means the republicans who voted against the marriage ban– quite the definition of a progressive. And 5) the Muslim brotherhood; wow, at least one person still pays attention to Michelle Bachmann. Who knew.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 11/27/2012 - 01:07 pm.

      I would offer that

      Ms Pugh’s 5 comments say much more about her than the voters, media and govt. With those attitudes, what purpose does she serve in the legislature?

  5. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/27/2012 - 10:45 am.

    Same sort of questions as Pat’s

    Does anyone know if it is possible for the public – me – to get an example/sample of the test and what sorts of questions are on it?

    Bill Gleason
    (faculty, U of M)

    • Submitted by Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt on 11/27/2012 - 12:30 pm.

      Some samples on Bob Collins’ NewsCut Blog

      Bob had a sample question up in the 5×8 post this morning, and a link to others.

    • Submitted by Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt on 11/27/2012 - 12:32 pm.

      sorry, forgot the link

      Here’s the link to the post:

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/27/2012 - 03:51 pm.

        It’s a good thing Mr. Collins writes for a living. And it’s a good thing it’s considered entertainment, because he’s pretty glib about the math test. Prism of a cylinder? C’mon. No wonder we’re falling behind in science and math–of course no one’s going to want to do well if even the “adults” won’t take it seriously.

        Part of the problem with this whole issue is that it’s not clear what’s required to pass. What is “proficient?” What percentage of the problems do you have to get correct in order to graduate? If you got all the simple math questions right, or even a portion of them, would you pass? Admittedly, I’m good at math, but it’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve thought about it in much detail. Looking at the sample test, it does make me have to think about the problems. It’s not super easy, but it’s not super hard–even without a calculator. If you must fail it 3 times to truly fail, something’s wrong. We should be figuring out what is wrong and addressing it, not throwing it out and starting from scratch because we’re not getting the results we want.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/27/2012 - 12:03 pm.

    Higher-level Math?

    In a previous life, I was a music teacher, but my question about the math test is whether or not it’s a realistic requirement as it’s currently constituted. I always enjoyed math in high school and was very good at it. I never struggled with math concepts since they all made sense to me and “clicked in” easily, but I had a wide variety of very sensible and competent classmates who just didn’t “get” math very easily.

    As soon as we got into equations with more than one variable, they struggled mightily. In some ways, the ability to comprehend higher-level math is a bit like learning to sight read music or to sing or play at an advanced level. No matter how hard they work, some kids aren’t going to sing “un bel di” or “nessun dorma” by Puccini or play Chopin’s “B minor ballad”,…

    nor are some kids going to comprehend trigonometry or advanced topics.

    So what level of advancement does the graduation math test require of kids? Are attempting to require them to “learn” something their brains are just not wired for? If so, the test needs to be leveled more appropriately, not removed completely.

    Perhaps we need to be sure that our graduation math test is NOT patterned after college entrance exams but rather, requires that kids know the basic math skills required for a mathematically well-organized life (and sorry to say, MATH TEACHERS may not be the best people to judge what needs to be included since math was generally easy for most of them, too).

  7. Submitted by Barbara Skoglund on 11/27/2012 - 01:13 pm.

    Sample test

    You can see a sample of the 11th grade math test at

    There are a number of ways to “pass” too.
    • Earn a proficient score on the Reading and Mathematics MCA or for mathematics a passing score on the GRAD component.
    • Earn a passing score on a GRAD retest.
    • Receive an individual passing score (for students on IEP or 504 plan).
    • Meet the alternate pathway requirements for the Mathematics GRAD.
    • Receive an EL exemption.
    • Pass an accountability test from another state approved by MDE.

    Aside from all the work the schools do with kids, there are online tutorials too. Check them out at

    Kids can use a calculator and get formula sheets.

    These tests have been around for nearly 15 years now. Teachers have been informed about the content. Here is the summary of the test content; (teachers and administrators get way more info than this summary)

    The Mathematics GRAD sub-scores align with Minnesota Graduation-Required Assessments for Diploma (GRAD) Test Specifications for Mathematics.
    • Number Sense: understanding numbers, operations, and quantitative reasoning
    Interpretive Guide for Minnesota Assessment Reports 2011–2012 14
    • Patterns, Functions, and Algebra: understanding patterns, relationships, and algebraic reasoning (the use of symbols to represent real-world situations)
    • Data, Statistics, and Probability: understanding probability (the chance that an event will occur) and statistics (the collection, organization, and interpretation of data)
    • Spatial Sense, Geometry, and Measurement: understanding geometry and spatial reasoning (the location/position of an object and the amount of space it occupies in the real world).

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/27/2012 - 04:04 pm.


      I’d be interested in seeing the results of a state-wide survey that examined how many of us even understand the explanation.

    • Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 11/28/2012 - 08:19 am.

      The GRAD test changed in 2005

      The current test has not been around or required for nearly 15 years.

      One of the reasons so many want-to-be high school graduates are failing this test is because it became more strenuous in 2005-2006. A student who entered Grade 8 in 2005-2006 or later now takes the GRAD test. Prior to this, the math portion was a Basics Skills test, equivalent to 8th grade math. The current math portion of the GRAD test, when passed, is equivalent to receiving an 1150 on the math portion of the SAT, or a 22 on the math portion of the ACT.

      It would be a very interesting to find out how many adults could pass this current test. In my opinion, requiring the equivalent of a 22 on the ACT is much too steep of a skills requirement to graduate from high school. I am surprised (or maybe not) that the more rigorous testing criteria since 2005-2006 has not been cited when talking about the failure of students to pass this test.

      The question that needs to be asked is do we in Minnesota expect every high school graduate to be prepared to succeed in college, or do we expect every high school graduate to be able to compute basic math problems.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/27/2012 - 01:25 pm.

    You missed the best of Pugh

    First, is that name pronounced the way I think it is? Second, you missed the best part:

    “What we can do: (1) Set sights on 2014 with confidence. (2) Focus locally. The campaign starts now. Promote freedom and liberty. (3) Arm ourselves with knowledge … definition of terms, the treaties in which the Senate may vote away our sovereignty, Agenda 21. (4) Look into the other side’s narrative – what their talking points are. (5) Look into the Social Studies Standards at Education Liberty Watch and how our history is being rewritten in textbooks. (6) Pay attention to what the coalition of 57 Muslim nations is doing to promote law through the UN.”

    Focus locally? Yeah, buy studying the treaties in the senate (with as much success as they study the 10th amendment) and monitoring what Muslims are doing in the UN. I guess these guys are going to have a “laser” focus on local issues eh?

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/27/2012 - 01:36 pm.


    I’d like to see the whole test actually. The examples I’ve seen don’t seem to difficult. As far as testing math skills is concerned, I think we should focus on basic stuff, it simply is not true that we’re all using algebra every day. Stuff like ratios and percentages, a few word problems, basic statistical principles, etc. I think you could do a test with fewer than 50 questions on it that would cover the basics. In psych we have mini-mentals, mini intelligence, and short depression scales that are remarkably accurate. I think the same principle could be applied to math. I think the goal should be to have a half hour test, that would help with test anxiety and compel a design that might work better for kids who know the material but test poorly.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/27/2012 - 04:15 pm.

      I recently noticed

      a few issues in a current test of math proficiency which had little to do with math. One example was a probability question: What are the odds of drawing a king from a standard deck of cards? Of the 3 8th grade students I tutor, only 2 knew that there were 52 cards in a deck, if you exclude the Joker(s). Assuming that the question refers to a 52 card deck, one knows that and that there are 4 kings in a deck, it’s a pretty straightforward question. If one doesn’t, however . . .

      Another problem encountered is students’ English vocabularies. On the same practice test, the student was asked to choose an explanation that would justify a certain result. The student was only able to successfully answer the question once he knew the meaning of the word justify.

      From these and other problems I’ve seen in standardized tests, I’ve concluded that there are a number of hidden cultural assumptions/biases at work here, many of which can be resolved by more carefully constructing the test questions.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 11/28/2012 - 10:30 am.


        Another thing I was struck by when reviewing the tests at the links posted online was how much they relied on “word problems”. Now I understand that the idea behind “word problems” is to make sure you’re relating the “abstracts” of mathematical concepts to “real life”, but I still think that over-reliance on them in this context is problematic, mostly because in relying on them, you have failed to decouple math literacy from reading literacy.

        I don’t argue the importance of reading literacy. But when making these kinds of measurements, I think we need to take care that problems with one skillset don’t end up “cross-contaminating” another skillset measurement. So you could have students that were perfectly fine in math, but perhaps have some level of a reading comprehension disorder such as dyslexia, or are “ESL” students where both reading comprehension and cultural differences could come into play, or are simply not as good at reading and so on.

        It might be interesting to see what happened in a test where the math problems were simply pure numerical problems to be solved (and yes, this can include such things as algebraic expressions and geometry). If the test scores got better in this kind of a “pure” test, it seems that might teach us something about how well the currently-constructed tests are actually measuring math literacy as opposed to reading comprehension.

        In addition, I was struck by a statement in one of the links where a college administrator was complaining that students were coming in without preparation at a basic level and so they were having to do that kind of remedial preparation just to get students to the starting line.

        This put me in mind of Sarah’s comment about what we’re really looking for here – college-level proficiency or “real life” proficiency”? Why are we assuming that every child must be college-bound? Can’t we test for “real life proficiency” as a criteria for high school graduation and let the colleges do their intake testing separately at a higher level to identify those students who are realistic candidates for higher education?

        Failing to test at a college admission level should not be equivalent to failing to test at a high school graduation level. What is necessary for one should not be assumed to also be necessary for the other.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/29/2012 - 09:05 am.

          Even in college they exagerate the importance of math

          I have a hard time taking these complaints about math seriously at the college level because they exaggerate the need for such skills. Very few majors actually require extensive math knowledge, especially algebra and geometry. Very few college graduates will use such knowledge after they graduate. Even in my field of psychology while there’s are necessary statistics training the fact is the vast majority of psychologists never do statistics. It’s far more important to understand scientific method, critical thinking, and study design. You can know what correlation and odds ratios are, but very few psychologists need to be able to actually calculate them. Most research department have statisticians on the team that actually design the statistical models, or they consult statisticians. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be taught, or that math is irrelevant, I’m just saying most of us use a very limited number of math and geometry skills during our adult lives. The only geometry I use on regular basis is calculating square space of some kind in order to buy paint, grass seed etc. In the real world math requirement are specific to professions, American carpenters need to work with fractions, and some geometry, but they don’t do statistics. I think we should be really careful about our graduation requirements, why require more math skills than graduates will actually need?

          I think we use math skills as a substitute for critical thinking and logic skills. While math involves those skills, it’s an abstract way of teaching them. I think our educations system needs explicit classes just in critical thinking, logic etc. Once you do that, actual math requirements looks a lot different.

          • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 11/29/2012 - 11:29 am.

            More than you “need”

            It’s hard to know what you’ll need for math over the rest of your lifetime. Professions are getting more math intensive. Welders need more math now than they did 20 years ago. Medical statisticians are in high demand. In a world where people change professions often it is always good to have a broad base of skills.

            I often tell my kids they need to know enough math to avoid being ripped off when it comes to money, whether that is buying a house, a car, a retirement fund or a cell phone plan. I’ve also used math when it comes to citizenship by questioning exponential population growth projections used by local government. I think math is critical to an informed public – whether it is knowing whether public investment is a good idea or calculating your taxes. I’m convinced part of the reason we bailed out Wall Street is Goldman Sachs knows math and Congress doesn’t.

            That said, a high school education doesn’t really signal to anyone that you know more than basic math. No profession that requires math skills will accept a high school diploma. I don’t think setting a high bar will counteract this perception. Perhaps there can be two ways to pass – the high bar using the test and the low bar using a different standard. Passing the test would be noted on the diploma and would signal to employers that the student meets more than the minimum requirement.

          • Submitted by Kent Fralish on 11/30/2012 - 07:35 am.

            Not exaggerated

            I completely agree that what is going away in our society is critical thinking. Proficiency and success requires attention to detail and practice. Calculators and computers diminish the need for the details or practice. The basic rules of math are best learned from scratch paper and trial and error. I believe we are getting used to instant answers without depth of knowledge which gives us no self gratification. A lack of gratification and self accomplishment can leave one very unhappy. Math is an excellent teacher of critical thinking, which leads to self gratification, success, and a satisfying life.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/02/2012 - 10:39 am.

            More than you “need” and critical thinking

            The fact that required math skills can not be predicted is exactly why we exaggerate math necessity. It’s impossible to graduate every student with all the math skills they could possibly need at proficient levels, for all possible professions. It’s also silly to require that every student be proficient with skills they will never need. Listen, in life there is a self selection process, students are great and interested in math tend to pursue a different career path than other students. It’s silly to ignore that fact. Carpenters are great with fractions, but they never do statistics, and statisticians never to fractions. Why should a carpenter be required know regression equations or calculate an odds ratio in order to graduate from High School? Look, in reality no one anywhere assumes you already know the math anyways. Every major at the university, and every trade school has it’s own math courses and requirements.

            Math involves critical thinking but my experience is that it doesn’t actually teach it very well. I think we have to be very careful to avoid math fetishism. My experience is that math proficiency is not a reliable indicator of critical thinking skills. Unless you’re doing quantum physics math is very formulaic with rigid parameters inviolable rules. These principles don’t make good critical thinkers, in fact I think to some extent they can deter good critical thought.

            Again, I’m not saying math is bad or worthless or that it shouldn’t be taught. I’m just saying that High School math requirements could look very different from what they currently are and be very effective. Furthermore we should be teaching critical thought directly rather assuming that we’re teaching critical thinking indirectly in math classes. The vast majority of our population gets at least ten years of math instruction yet critical thinking is not our strength as a nation.

            • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 12/03/2012 - 09:31 am.

              I think you’re too focused on career math needs

              There are math needs in life that aren’t strictly related to careers. Will a carpenter ever need to purchase life insurance? Will a baker need to depreciate equipment costs? Will a nurse ever be tempted to play the lottery?

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/03/2012 - 10:20 am.

                What math?

                Dan, my point exactly. No one uses math to purchase life insurance, they buy a policy and pay the premiums. Everyone I know uses a tax program to calculate equipment depreciation or pays an someone else to do it. There’s no more math involved in buying a lottery ticket than there is in buying a bar of soap and please don’t tell me you think anyone is actually calculating the odds. It’s not about careers at all, THAT’S my point. Take the career requirements out of the equation and what are you really left with? Are we teaching math appreciation or are teaching actual skills?

                • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/03/2012 - 11:06 am.

                  And . . . . . .

                  Are we currently requiring the same level of math proficiency to graduate from high school as we are to be admitted to college? And if so, is that appropriate?

                • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 12/03/2012 - 03:37 pm.

                  Your point

                  I guess your point is that most people make it through life just fine without knowing much math because they just pay other people who understand it better than they do to perform the calculations for them. You see no problem; I see a bunch of marks who will have their money taken from them by people without scruples.

                  • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/03/2012 - 04:50 pm.


                    I see your point, but I don’t necessarily think it follows from where this conversation began – that is, the fact that we have kids not passing the high school math requirement, and the question of whether the requirement is being set appropriately and realistically.

                    I agree it would be nice if everyone could do all of their own calculations so as to understand to the nth detail every transaction they are involved in throughout their lives. But is that realistic? Is every student capable of understanding math at that level?

                    I don’t know precisely how the requirements have changed over the years. I do know that in reading through some of the questions in the links that have been posted that I have absolutely no recollection of ever being presented with concepts of those kinds or at those levels when I was in high school. Raising the bar is fine. But are we getting too carried away with raising the bar and putting it literally out of the reach of the capabilities of some of our students?

                    And if so, is eliminating the test really the answer? Or instead, should we be reassessing what any given high school student (who may or may not ever go one to further education – whether you agree with that or not) really needs? And is realistically capable of (over the population as a whole)?

                    Every student can’t be an Einstein. Nor do they need to be.

                    Are we starting to forget that?

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/03/2012 - 11:10 pm.

                    Not quite

                    I’ll try one more time. What I’m saying is actually the opposite, it’s not that people get through life letting other people do their math, the fact is most people through life because they know all the math they need to know, and that’s a lot less math than math educators seem to realize. I think we need to accept the fact that the majority of students, grade inflation not withstanding, are going to be “C” math students or less. We will never graduate a majority of students as math experts. More importantly, the fact is the vast majority of people simply don’t need to be anything better than a “C” math student to be successful adults, and being better mathematicians would NOT change their circumstances. So the question is, and I’m asking here, do our graduation requirements reflect that reality, or do they require unnecessary and unrealistic expertise? If the tests don’t reflect these realities they will be unenforceable, and will either need to be dropped, or the students will be denied diplomas, or the tests will have to be redesigned to reflect reality.

                    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/04/2012 - 08:39 am.


                      I think Paul and I are on the same wavelength, and I, for one, do not favor dropping the test, as that could tend to de-emphasize ANY amount of importance being associated with math literacy.

                      I’m not in favor of eliminating math literacy. I’m in favor of testing for an appropriate level of math literacy for high school students who may or may not ever go on to higher education (or if they do, may or may not pursue a field requiring high levels of technically-oriented expertise).

                      And I’m pretty sure that will require – as Paul has said – redesigning the tests to reflect reality.

                    • Submitted by Sarah Magnuson on 12/04/2012 - 11:49 am.

                      We could go back to the Basic Skills Requirement of 1995-2005

                      Just want to reiterate that this current test was changed in 2005. It used to be a Basic Math Skills Test that needed to be passed, which was the equivalent knowledge of very basic Algebra. Those who were in 8th grade in 2005 or later now have to pass a test that is much more stringent, equivalent to scoring a 22 on the ACT test or 1050 on the SAT (math portions). In my opinion, this is an unreasonable standard for high school graduation. As Pat commented, what appropriate math literacy is being asked to graduate from high school? I don’t believe it should be equivalent to entrance requirements to a four-year college.

  10. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/27/2012 - 04:05 pm.

    I can only wonder

    whether Gov. Walker means he knew what they were doing but didn’t know it was illegal.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/04/2012 - 09:21 am.

    different tests for different reasons

    We also have to be clear about what we’re doing with these tests. I can see requiring rigorous tests covering a wide array of math skills for data collection on math proficiency with the student body. Over-all data on the level of proficiency is useful. However, graduation requirements and testing for graduation requirements are a different thing all together. We can’t use one test or the same test for both objectives. One test measures the over-all level of proficiency within the population, the other measures individual levels of proficiency relative to a pre-determined requirement. You have to sort that out. A requirement test should look very different a population survey.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/04/2012 - 11:06 am.


    By the way, I note the complaints from colleges and universities about having to provide remedial instruction but I am not impressed. These places have all raised tuition’s 200%-300% over the last two decades. These students are paying for these degrees so I don’t see any reason why colleges and universities shouldn’t provide the necessary instruction… that is after all what they’re supposed to be doing. High school academic requirements dictated by colleges and universities will only distort the academic process the same way it’s distorted high school sports.

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