The Chatterbox

The Chatterbox

News and views from the staff of FamilyEducation.



mouse's picture mouse

I did the same thing in school, still do to some extent--on standardized tests, not so much on the open-ended doctoral exams. The more concrete the information being tested, the faster I go. My main goal with those math timed tests was to finish as quickly as I could.

As an educator, it seems to me the better way to word such directions would be something like "x amount of time has been allotted for this test. If you finish early, check your work and then do y."

Aliki McElreath's picture Aliki McElreath

I completely agree, Mouse. It's frustrating that something so innocent-seeming, like the wording of instructions, could have such an impact on a child's test-taking strategies. The big problem is that it is so hard to "undo" damage done because L. takes things so literally. We have lots of problems with this particular math teacher because she uses so much sarcasm in her interactions with L. and he doesn't know how to take this. Every day he comes home with a quote from her that he's taken literally and we have to do damage control to explain her meaning.

On the other hand, I guess, these are good lessons for him...

Omaha Mama's picture Omaha Mama

As someone who teaches kids who fall into the 'well below average' IQ range on their MDTs and actually has to write that in their paperwork whether I like the wording or not...I think of average as quite good. Looking up from down there, average is amazing. Average intelligence. Average looking. Average income. Looks pretty darn good from those who are well below average. Maybe if you talked to L about it in terms of how you determine an average? By adding up all of the numbers and dividing them? Maybe he'd see it's not a derogatory term, but a word to describe a mathematic equation? Good luck with that, I know how hard it can be to change a pattern of thought.

Aliki McElreath's picture Aliki McElreath

I guess it does depend on your perspective. I just wince over these "average" and "below average" labels because I see how lasting they are. Kids carry them right on with them into college, and they are so hard to shake.