Nationella prov

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Testing, especially national testing, in math is a constant problem for teachers and schools in Sweden. The way the national tests are currently set up is an extreme burden on teachers and on the schools and makes it pretty much impossible to be fair.


If the whole point of national testing is contribute to more fair (jämlika) schools, then as far as I can see the only reasonable solution is to have all national tests administered and graded by an independent third party.  Students should go off campus to a special location where the same test is given by the same people under the same conditions to all students. The same group should then correct all tests with the results being sent back to the teachers.


This is the only way to ensure fairness across the board and would take away a huge time sink and source of stress for math teachers.


A natural extension of this idea would be to have all major testing done by a third party. Maybe two tests a year from 7th grade through 9th grade. Independently created and graded. This would be the most fair.


There would be another major advantage of this: currently we teachers have a confusing double role for our students. We are both there to help and to judge. This causes many students to be afraid to share their problems with us since they are afraid if she show they don’t understand it will count against their grade. Taking the testing out of our hands allows us to just be there to help and I feel would go a long way towards improving the cooperation and relationship between teachers and students.


Japanese math

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I recently read about the failure of Japanese students to answer 5 questions posed by the Mathematical Society of Japan. After much searching, I was able to track down one of questions used:

I don’t know if it’s the translation or a fault of the original text, but as it stands the wording of this question has a lot of problems that make it (in my opinion) a poor gauge of a student’s understanding of statistics.

I will focus on just one of these problems: the use of the word “average”. This was the same mistake made by the Swedish national test for 9th graders a few years ago. They had a problem asking for the “genomsnitt” (average). I spend a lot of time explaining to my students that one of the strengths of mathematics is its ability to be precise with definitions. And in particular that the word average has no precise mathematical meaning. If you want the mean, ask for the mean, if you want the median, ask for the median. Yes, in common language “average” usually means “the mean”, but this has no place in a national math test in any language.

There are of course a number of other problems with the text in this question …