At School, It’s Wrong To Be Right

     One of the problems with Common Core and the Standardized testing, is badly written questions.  But a bigger problem are teachers and principals who stand by that idiocy no matter how wrong it is.

     A case in point demonstrating the problem with teachers relying on standardized testing materials rather than using their own brains.

     A parent of a grade school student was brought in because the student was being “disruptive” in class.  What was the disruption?  The student claimed the teacher was wrong.  The teacher claimed the answer to the question “what was the largest number that can be represented with 3 digits” was “999”.  The teacher was wrong.

Pictured: A number larger than 999

     Of course, the authoritarian strain in modern edukashun would not allow that to stand, and so called in the parent.

     Nine to the power of Nine to the Nine is a much, much larger number than 999.  The teacher claimed that that was not the correct answer because the students hadn’t been taught exponents yet.  That most the students hadn’t been taught that yet does not mean that the answer is incorrect.

     The problem was with the poor wording of the question, with the teacher and principal acknowledging the provided answer was indeed incorrect, but that they would follow the incorrect answer anyway.

     Therein lies the biggest concern: Teachers are just going through the motions and regurgitating what they are told to do.  This isn’t even peddling pedagogy; this is automata in action.

     A little mood music:

     P.S. The students answer is correct if one assumes that one can only use three numbers, since that is not specified in the question.  If allowed to variable and other symbols the highest number you can make with three digits using the standard base-10 numbers, there is a no “largest” number as you will quickly accelerate towards infinity.  If other bases are allowed, even if you grant that only numbers are allowed, there is no “largest” number as the “largest number” is limited by the size of the base, which is infinite.  Heck, if you use Roman numerals: M to the power of M to the M would be much, much larger than nine to the power of nine to the nine.  Using the Greek letter M (equal to 10,000) – a literal myriad – would allow for an even higher number.


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1 Response to At School, It’s Wrong To Be Right

  1. avatar Nancy E Head says:

    I teach in a private school and at a small university. The public school teachers I know get pressure from above because tests are tied to the money the schools get. They hate the tests too. I am in agreement with many of my colleagues at the college level that students seem less prepared for college than they were a few years ago.

    Too many students are going for a degree. Some of them should consider tech careers. And that isn’t because they’re not smart enough. It’s because the market can only handle so many degreed people.

    Even so, public school gave up trying to produce good citizens and began to try to produce good workers a couple decades ago. We see the results in standardized tests (the ones that are actually informative), in the college classroom, at the voting booth, and on the evening news.

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