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Friday, September 26, 2008

Green Eggs and Math

I hate open-ended questions.

OK, so I don't really hate them. I really do believe that, in the long run, they are much better than multiple choice questions. I just hate the fact that getting my kids to answer them is like pulling teeth or boating a marlin.

They never want to put any thought into their answer, and they often write down stuff that makes no sense whatsoever.

For instance, one of the questions at the end of the Plant chapter in our science book says, "What is a seedling?" MANY of my kids throughout the years write, "Every seed has a seedling," as their answer. Congratulations, you looked back in the chapter and found a sentence that contains the word "seedling," but it doesn't ANSWER the question!!!

Yesterday, I gave a math test, and the final question said, "Give an example of when you would round instead of using exact numbers. Explain."

As you might, guess, I got a myriad of wacky answers. The best were any that mentioned what we had discussed when we first started rounding, which was going to the store and trying to keep track of your total cost. But some just said things like "at school," or "at a job." Um, no soup for you!

But then there were the kids who really took the "when" part of that question emphatically. On girl wrote as her answer, "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday." I guess Wednesday is rounding-free day?

Several other kids wrote "Never. You wouldn't get an answer." Right, so let's just keep practicing this skill that you will NEVER use. (well, they DO diagram sentences in middle school)

But the one that takes the cake reminded me of Dr. Seuss. When would we use rounding? According to this girl, "At my house, in the car, in a tree, at the school," etc, etc.

I will not round that in a box.
I will not round that with a fox.


Almost American said...

LOL! We fight that battle here too. The kids do OK (ish) on multiple choice questions but the 'open response' ones are the ones that bring the scores down on the state tests.

HappyChyck said...

Funny you mention this...we are going to try to use the wonderful inspiration of how to approach constructed response questions from The Writing Fix website next week at our in-service. "We" would be a few of us English department fools trying to spread good writing cheer throughout the school. Oy...

Melissa B. said...

Dr. Seuss is my fave. If the kids don't get math & science, why not just teach Theodore Geisel instead?

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Mister Teacher said...

AA, doesn't it suck??

Chyck, good luck, I hope it sticks!

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Kelly said...

Try giving them sentences starters, at least for questions of a type that you are likely to give repeatedly (like the "give an example... explain" question). Model what a good answer looks like, provide the sentence starters, then slowly wean them off those supports.