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How can we help ds to be faster on the PSAT/SAT?

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#1 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 09:06 PM

Ds16 is studying very hard for the PSAT this summer.  He plans to take it in October to try for NM, and then take the SAT shortly after.  His skills are good; he is at Level 4 in all the Math and Reading & Writing skills on his Khan Academy SAT dashboard.  He took a practice PSAT test today from the Ivy Global PSAT book and only missed one question in the Writing section and one between both Math sections.  He missed more in Reading as that's been hit or miss depending on the prep book questions, the passage, etc., but he has also done very well on that, too.

 

His problem is time.  If he really hustles he can usually get through the Reading and Writing sections in the time allowed, and has also gotten through the Math No Calculator in time - once out of the six practice tests he's taken.  What he really needs help with is finishing the Math With Calculator section.  He works until he's finished, marking what problems he finishes in the time allowed, then how long it takes him to finish the rest.  He takes almost twice as long as he's allowed with the Math With Calculator section - 1 hour 20 minutes today.

 

He used to be a very sloppy math student in the middle school years, so put a lot of time into training him to be careful, show all his work, and double check everything.  Now I feel as if all this training is backfiring.  :)

 

He's a really good kid, and he is working so, so hard.  I would love to see him rewarded for his hard work and manage to make the cutoff for semifinalist.

 

Does anyone have any tips on how to help him get faster?

 

Thanks!

GardenMom


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#2 Arcadia

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 10:27 PM

Is he being very careful or is his reading speed slower?

What calculator is he using? My older did very well on the June SAT's math section using a cheap Casio scientific calculator. He would have taken longer with his TI84 plus. He also didn't use the calculator unless he has to for the calculator section.

My younger is the slow reading speed one so my older does the exams first so we can learn from his mistakes to help my younger prep better. Hyperfocusing helps my younger do better in his actual ACT than practice tests.

No idea about the PSAT.

Good luck for the PSAT and SAT.
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#3 amsunshine

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 10:51 PM

Is he taking actual college board tests and having the same time problems? I've never heard of Ivy Global.
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#4 Lucy the Valiant

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 10:53 PM

He needs to solve the QUESTIONS on the exam, not the PROBLEMS.

 

In other words, especially on the easier (toward the beginning) math questions, just look for the right answer, not actually SOLVE each one. That will save quite a lot of time. And in reading, it's not often intuitive, but if a kid can look for the WRONG answers, he can eliminate a lot faster than he can quantitatively confirm (if that makes sense).


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#5 Arcadia

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Posted 27 July 2016 - 11:37 PM

Is he taking actual college board tests and having the same time problems? I've never heard of Ivy Global.


This :) I keep getting their ads on my Facebook sponsored content portion
http://sat.ivyglobal...-psat-practice/
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#6 Heigh Ho

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 07:13 AM

For math: Does he know his basics such that he has quick recall of primes, factoring is obvious, the most repeated concepts are obvious? Can he rule out wrong answers quickly?
What happens during the practice test...is he solving all but a handful quickly, or is everything too slow?
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#7 creekland

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 08:19 AM

See what happens if you tell him to not write everything down.  Does he still get them (or most of them) correct or not?  If so, that's his solution (figuring out when he needs to write stuff down and when not).  As you mentioned, he might be too methodical for a quick timed test.


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#8 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 06:27 PM

Is he being very careful or is his reading speed slower?

 

I don't consider him a slow reader.  Rather, I think he has slow "processing speed".  He gets that from me.

 

He has two older brothers who have *extremely* fast processing speeds.  DS18 NEVER had any problems completing ANY test on time.  He usually is done in 50% of the time and that is with very high accuracy.  OTOH, DS18 IS somewhat of a slow reader.

 

His older sister also has a slow processing speed, never finished a PSAT practice test, but managed to finish the real test and make National Merit Finalist.

 

What calculator is he using? My older did very well on the June SAT's math section using a cheap Casio scientific calculator. He would have taken longer with his TI84 plus. He also didn't use the calculator unless he has to for the calculator section.

 

He has a TI-84 Plus SE, but we recently had him switch to his little brother's TI-84 CE.  There are a few things that can be done VERY quickly on TI-84 that can take a long time on paper.  One example is multi-variable, multi-equation problems.

 

DS16 seems very good at NOT using the calculator unless warranted.

 

Simply put, we are not willing to change the calculator at this point.


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#9 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 06:34 PM

Is he taking actual college board tests and having the same time problems?

 

It's a good question.  Unfortunately, the ONLY College Board tests out there were the practice test and real test from last year.  He did both of those last year.

 

Since there are four SAT practice tests out there, we will be having him take those over the next four weeks to see how things go.

 

I've never heard of Ivy Global.

 

We hadn't either.  But, frankly, we have found them to be the best non-College-Board tests out there.  For anyone looking for a good-quality PSAT practice test, they have a free one on their website.  They have three more tests available in the book they sell for the new PSAT.  All tests are very good.  Our biggest gripe has been with some of the reading questions.

 

I should point out that while he is taking a long time, he typically gets 2/3 of the questions done and correct in the allowed time.
 


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#10 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 06:48 PM

He needs to solve the QUESTIONS on the exam, not the PROBLEMS.

 

In other words, especially on the easier (toward the beginning) math questions, just look for the right answer, not actually SOLVE each one. That will save quite a lot of time. And in reading, it's not often intuitive, but if a kid can look for the WRONG answers, he can eliminate a lot faster than he can quantitatively confirm (if that makes sense).

 

I think this is the key issue.  He used to be VERY sloppy with his math and MomsintheGarden drilled into him the importance of being accurate.  It has taken years of them working together, but he has gotten VERY accurate.  But the paper slows him down.  He KNOWS how to do things that way and trusts his well-honed skills.

 

MomsintheGarden and I are both engineers.  We are good at what is known as "engineering estimation", which I believe is exactly the same thing you are discussing.  This is sufficient for perhaps 50% of the multiple-choice questions and occasionally even allows for a quick solutions for the "grid-in" questions.

 

I pushed DS16 to forget about accuracy for this week's test and just see how fast he could go.  He pushed back on that idea and simply didn't go there.  No speed improvement.

 

So the test review was a little different this week.  The one math question he missed was a simple mistake.  Since there were NO problems he didn't know how to do, we went through EVERY question and I suggested ways to reduce the amount of writing he did.  There was one question where he didn't see the built-in "trick" and it took quite a bit more time.  He'll need to improve his recognition of those.  Then there were several where an "engineering estimate" would have gotten the correct letter answer without any real calculation.  But he's uncomfortable with doing things in his head given the history.  It's an issue.

 

I want to try again next week to get him to "test with abandon" to see how many he can get right, but we'll see if he will go along.  (BTW, I want him to do that NOW so that we have time to hone that skill before the test.)  Any ideas how to move him in that direction would be appreciated!


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#11 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 06:55 PM

For math: Does he know his basics such that he has quick recall of primes, factoring is obvious, the most repeated concepts are obvious? Can he rule out wrong answers quickly?

 

He knows ALL the concepts needed on the test very well.  Since he writes out his work, I can see that he nearly-always attacks the problem in the most direct manner.  He is a machine at factoring.  In fact, he's better than I am.

 

Yes, he does a good job at ruling out wrong answers.  But that still often leaves two and he doesn't want to get the wrong answer.

 

What happens during the practice test...is he solving all but a handful quickly, or is everything too slow?

 

I would almost say that he works the difficult problems about as quickly as they can be done (given his writing speed), but many of the simpler problems take him too long.  An average of 90 seconds per question is available for this test.


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#12 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 07:01 PM

See what happens if you tell him to not write everything down.  Does he still get them (or most of them) correct or not?  If so, that's his solution (figuring out when he needs to write stuff down and when not).  As you mentioned, he might be too methodical for a quick timed test.

 

That's what I started trying to do with this week's test.  But it seems clear: he is VERY visual in how he addresses these problems.  I'm going to try again this week to see if he can give up the paper for many questions.

 

BTW, I think he is very good as making the calculator/no calculator decision.  It is the paper/no paper decision where I think he can save some time.  Also, I think some simplifications within a problem should be done in his head.

 

What's tricky here is that he is to the point where I'm confident that he will complete the "Math No Calculator" section on time with no errors (or perhaps one).  But he only gets about 2/3 of the "Math With Calculator" portion done.  I don't want to see his performance of the "Math No Calculator" suffer because of changes he is making to the other portion.

 

Fortunately, we still have some time.
 


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#13 Arcadia

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 07:15 PM

I don't consider him a slow reader. Rather, I think he has slow "processing speed". He gets that from me.

He has two older brothers who have *extremely* fast processing speeds.

I don't think it is worth changing calculators if he is already very familiar with the one he use. My younger and older has a processing speed difference of 96th percentile and 50th percentile.
Which is why older gets to be the guinea pig.

If you look at linked chart, Problem Solving and Data Analysis is in only the Math Calculator section of PSAT and SAT and takes up the majority of the questions in that section.
https://collegereadi.../psat-nmsqt-sat

Improving speed on that category would bump up the speed for the Math Calculator section for PSAT (52%) and SAT (45%)
Description of Problem Solving and Data Analysis category in link
https://collegereadi...g-data-analysis

ETA:
We remind our kids that SAT has no penalty for wrong answers. Forget about perfectionism and accuracy, just go at it like those games with countdown timers.

Edited by Arcadia, 28 July 2016 - 07:32 PM.

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#14 RegGuheert

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 07:52 PM

I don't think it is worth changing calculators if he is already very familiar with the one he use.

 

Fortunately, I have been able to find a few tricks with the TI-84 that *really* help with a specific problems.  The screen on the color version makes some of these much more "visual" since the entire problem can be easily viewed.

 

My younger and older has a processing speed difference of 96th percentile and 50th percentile.
Which is why older gets to be the guinea pig.

 

Can you please tell us how processing speed is measured?

 

If you look at linked chart, Problem Solving and Data Analysis is in only the Math Calculator section of PSAT and SAT and takes up the majority of the questions in that section.
https://collegereadi.../psat-nmsqt-sat

Improving speed on that category would bump up the speed for the Math Calculator section for PSAT (52%) and SAT (45%)
Description of Problem Solving and Data Analysis category in link
https://collegereadi...g-data-analysis

 

That's a very interesting analysis!  I think you may be onto something.  Looking at the ten categories within "Problem Solving and Data Analysis" I can see several areas that slow him down.  He can do the problems, but he doesn't have a good "feel" for some things.  In a few cases, he has been thrown by terms that were unfamiliar to him.

 

Besides more drill, is there anything else which can help with this specific area?  It's pretty broad.

 

ETA:
We remind our kids that SAT has no penalty for wrong answers. Forget about perfectionism and accuracy, just go at it like those games with countdown timers.

 

Good point!  We don't do this at home since we have him continue until done, but we need to make sure that he takes the last minute to make guesses on anything he hasn't completed.

 

Thanks to everyone for all of the tips!  We're open to any further ideas you may have.


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#15 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 08:00 PM

Thank you, everyone for your comments, questions, and suggestions!  Reg and I read through every one of them carefully.  Since I've been in the garden and cooking food we've found there I haven't had much time to answer.  Reg is the most involved in ds's PSAT practice, going over all of the questions that he missed, etc.

 

It's a little frustrating to me because we had tons of prep materials for the old PSAT that are not usable anymore because the test changed so much.  I had purchased old PSATs from the CB.  There is a real dearth of actual CB practice tests.  I hope the new PSAT practice test we will get in September will be new material, but it will probably be last year's test.

 

I am looking forward to seeing how ds16 does on the four CB SAT practice tests over the next few weeks.  That should be very telling.

 

Thanks again!

GardenMom


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#16 Arcadia

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Posted 28 July 2016 - 08:41 PM

Can you please tell us how processing speed is measured?



Their processing speed was measured as part of the WISC-IV test. We were wondering about the possibility of 2E.

I haven't slice and dice the new PSAT yet. My older has four more years to prep. I would probably analyze both PSAT and SAT soon because analysis is entertaining to me.

You know my kids have tortured their TI84 with programming. Luckily not at assembly language level yet.

I am looking forward to seeing how ds16 does on the four CB SAT practice tests over the next few weeks. That should be very telling.

If you haven't read the Khan sat practice test thread yet, it might be a fun read
http://forums.welltr...-practice-test/

My older's actual SAT score is higher than his scores on the four CB SAT practice tests but his English score was lower than the Khan SAT practice test one.

Edited by Arcadia, 28 July 2016 - 08:44 PM.

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#17 Heigh Ho

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 05:39 AM

We went thru the practice test one page at a time for math, and one reading selection at a time for verbal. The first week we did only one per day, so the kid could anal y ze how to solve the problems / answer the questions in time given. With math, the pencil should be used sparingly...very sparingly..almost all are solved mentally. One of the prep books even noted that if you start trying to write things out, you have missed the key concept or you lack numeracy. Reading boiled down to skim, read question, re-read pertinent parts carefully, decide.
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#18 RegGuheert

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 08:21 AM

We went thru the practice test one page at a time for math, and one reading selection at a time for verbal. The first week we did only one per day, so the kid could anal y ze how to solve the problems / answer the questions in time given.

 

That sounds like a good approach!

 

With math, the pencil should be used sparingly...very sparingly..almost all are solved mentally.

 

Agreed the pencil needs to be used sparingly.  While some people can solve almost all of them mentally, I suspect most people can only solve about half mentally.

 

One of the prep books even noted that if you start trying to write things out, you have missed the key concept or you lack numeracy..

 

I think that is taking things a bit too far.  While writing is slow, it is a valid technique that has withstood the test of time.  I can tell from what is written that DS16 is NOT missing the key concepts.  He knows the material well enough to take the most direct approach in the vast majority of cases.  Where I think he is weak is in the fast estimation techniques that he needs to quickly answer some of the questions on these tests.

 

Beyond that, there are plenty of questions where pencil and paper is necessary to solve the problem.  Here is a particularly difficult one which came up on Khan Academy recently:

(3/2)x - 3y = 1/4
2x - (13/3)y = 1/9

Find the product x * y

A) 1
B) 2/3
C) -1
D) 1.5

I seriously doubt that many people can successfully solve this system of linear equations in their head.

 

- MomsintheGarden and I each tried this one but made multiple mistakes while working it out.

- DS16 got the right answer, but only after 14 minutes (after making one mistake that he corrected).

 

I think this problem can be done correctly on paper in about 5 minutes if no mistakes are made.

 

I taught DS16 how to solve this problem in about 60 seconds by using linear algebra and matrix math on the TI-84 CE while being able to review the coefficients on the screen to avoid any chance of a data-entry error (imagine the pipes are matrix brackets):

|3/2  -3|-1 |1/4|
|2 -13/3|   |1/9|

The TI-84 CE displays the matrices very clearly so that the coefficients can be checked prior to the calculation.

 

Of course the risk of teaching this type of technique is that the student may become calculator-dependent.  So far that is not an issue with DS16.  He uses this technique now for this type of problem, but he also avoids the calculator when he can.

 

All that said, I think this problem from Khan Academy is a bit harder than any that will show up on the actual test.  Still, having a technique which solves any two-equation, two-unknown set of linear equations in 60 seconds is pretty useful, IMO.

 

Reading boiled down to skim, read question, re-read pertinent parts carefully, decide.

 

Does that work for your children?  I'm not sure of the exact technique which DS16 uses, but I have never been much of a "skimmer" myself.  My approach is more Read->Read questions->Review for details.  I think I could see the benefits of reading the questions first, though.
 


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#19 RegGuheert

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 09:11 AM

(3/2)x - 3y = 1/4
2x - (13/3)y = 1/9

Find the product x * y

A) 1
B) 2/3
C) -1
D) 1.5

I seriously doubt that many people can successfully solve this system of linear equations in their head.
 

 

Well...DS18 (not the student in question) took that statement as a personal challenge!  So I gave him the problem and told him to time himself.  He solved it in his head and got the correct answer in 3.5 minutes. :tongue_smilie:

 

(FWIW, he solved it by multiplying the second equation by 3/4 and subtracting it from the first equation, then solved for y and plugged it into one of the equations to get x.)
 


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#20 Penelope

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 11:40 AM


Beyond that, there are plenty of questions where pencil and paper is necessary to solve the problem. Here is a particularly difficult one which came up on Khan Academy recently:

(3/2)x - 3y = 1/42x - (13/3)y = 1/9Find the product x * yA) 1B) 2/3C) -1D) 1.5
I seriously doubt that many people can successfully solve this system of linear equations in their head.

- MomsintheGarden and I each tried this one but made multiple mistakes while working it out.
- DS16 got the right answer, but only after 14 minutes (after making one mistake that he corrected).

I think this problem can be done correctly on paper in about 5 minutes if no mistakes are made.

I taught DS16 how to solve this problem in about 60 seconds by using linear algebra and matrix math on the TI-84 CE while being able to review the coefficients on the screen to avoid any chance of a data-entry error (imagine the pipes are matrix brackets):
|3/2  -3|-1 |1/4||2 -13/3|   |1/9|
The TI-84 CE displays the matrices very clearly so that the coefficients can be checked prior to the calculation.

Of course the risk of teaching this type of technique is that the student may become calculator-dependent. So far that is not an issue with DS16. He uses this technique now for this type of problem, but he also avoids the calculator when he can.

All that said, I think this problem from Khan Academy is a bit harder than any that will show up on the actual test. Still, having a technique which solves any two-equation, two-unknown set of linear equations in 60 seconds is pretty useful, IMO.


I did this in under a minute on paper. One trick to shortening written problems is to only write down what you absolutely have to. One doesn't need to write down the problem and then solve it, but to write down the transformed equation as you do the necessary steps, doing intermediate steps in your head. Looking at the problem initially, you should see that you will need to either multiply the first equation by 4 and the second by 3 to solve for y, or alternatively multiply the second equation by 3/4. Then you can just write down the two equations you are left with, solve for y in your head, and then solve for x mentally as well. Or quickly use paper to be certain.

I could do the whole problem without writing anything down, but it takes longer and there more opportunities of making mistakes.

I don't think it is particularly difficult. It is a standard algebra 1 system of equations, and it is written like a standardized test question to come out with a nice, neat answer.

I think that taking a long time to solve this type of problem may indicate a weakness in number sense and possibly algebraic skills, if it is not immediately apparent to the student the type of problem it is and the quickest way to go about solving it. I would look at where he is slowing down. Is it the fractions? Manipulating the equations? Being too meticulous with writing every step rather than completing intermediate steps in his head?

Edited for clarity and to add: IMO doing lots of math practice problems can only help, especially with the problems that should require less writing or no writing. Seeing the same types of problem over and over and over again should help save time so that during the test situations, the brain is recognizing patterns more and should not have to waste as many seconds thinking about how to approach the problem. It just knows.

Edited by Penelope, 29 July 2016 - 12:38 PM.

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#21 Sebastian (a lady)

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 12:18 PM

When he writes problems down, does he do them very neatly and carefully like he might for homework, or does he have a more fluid scribble to use for testing?  I ask this because one of my kids was very meticulous on his end of year testing, but then had trouble finishing on time.  He definitely needs to find a testing speed that lets him jot figures down, but isn't necessarily fit for wider distribution.


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#22 Arcadia

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 12:20 PM

Well...DS18 (not the student in question) took that statement as a personal challenge! So I gave him the problem and told him to time himself. He solved it in his head and got the correct answer in 3.5 minutes. :tongue_smilie:

Done in 1 min 24sec writing out 7 lines. Could be done in less lines.

First equation multiply by 4
6x-12y =1 (3rd equation)

Second equation multiply by 3
6x -13y = 1/3 (4th equation)

Subtract 4th equation from 3rd equation
Y = 2/3

Substitute y=2/3 into 3rd equation
6x -8=1
6x = 9
x = 3/2
xy = 1

ETA:
My math script is fluid, almost cursive. Your DS18 probably has a strong working memory.

ETA:
Oldest took 50 secs, 5 lines. He did my line 4 and 5 in his head. Fluid script.
Younger did in a roundabout way then realized a few lines down that he make his own life difficult then he redo from start. So he "wasted" a minute before redoing.

ETA:
For reading section, my kids skim the questions, read the passage, then choose fast and don't over think. The first choice is usually correct and rarely is the second choice correct.

Edited by Arcadia, 29 July 2016 - 01:41 PM.

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#23 Linda in TX

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 01:32 PM

One thing that helped my daughter was to have her talk to me about what she was thinking as she did the problem. I could then see where she was taking too long, or having problems processing.

 

Ask if there is a shorter way to find the answer. Don't just work on correct answers, work on faster ways to get to correct answers. If you are verbally talking about the problem, sometimes you can ask leading questions to help about the math behind it, not just the formula to solve it.

 

I hope this make sense.

 

Linda


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#24 Lucy the Valiant

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 05:59 PM

Also, there is a difference between the "concept" of the problem (AKA: true math, system of equations) and the "trick" of the problem (SAT short-cutting, or as you put it up-thread, "engineering estimates"). They are 2 different ways of approaching the problems, and sometimes kids who are strong in "true math" never even think to try short-cuts (because they feel "wrong").


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#25 RegGuheert

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 06:30 PM

I think that taking a long time to solve this type of problem may indicate a weakness in number sense and possibly algebraic skills, if it is not immediately apparent to the student the type of problem it is and the quickest way to go about solving it.

 

Really, what you call "number sense and possibly algebraic skills" boils down to what I would call algorithm selection.  You need to know how to accurately apply algebraic manipulations to solve these equations using any approach (accept the calculator-only approach).   Let's take a closer look at the algorithms I have seen used for this problem so far:

 

Main Algorithm Selection:

 

M1) Solve one equation for one variable wrt the other and plug that into the second equation.  Solve for the second variable. Plug solution back into one of the original equations and solve for first variable.

 

M2) Multiply one of the two equations by a factor to make one of the two coefficients the same in both equations.  Subtract one equation from the other.  Solve for the remaining variable. Plug solution for that variable into one of the original equations and solve for the second variable.

 

M3) Apply linear algebra to the problem to allow for a solution using matrix math.  Invert the 2x2 coefficient matrix and multiply it by the 2x1 constant matrix to get the 2x1 solution matrix.

 

Secondary Algorithm Selection:

 

S1) Do not simplify any fractions first.

 

S2) Simplify fractions before solving.
 

Computation Approach Selection:

 

C1) In your head. (Animal)

 

C2) Using a calculator. (Mineral)

 

C3) On paper. (Vegetable)

 

Figures-of-merit for making these selections (in order of importance):

 

F1) Probability of getting the correct answer with this approach.  (If you get the wrong answers on the test, your speed does not matter.)

 

F2) How long does it take to get the answer?

 

F3) Does the approach give the student a good "sense" of what is going on mathematically.  (Frankly, a bit less important during the test, but very important overall.)

 

 

Many questions arise when I think about all these choices which must be made by the student:

 

Q1) How does the student choose these three main algorithms form the MANY algorithms available?

 

Q2) How many OTHER algorithms are out there to solve these equations?  (Rhetorical question: Infinite)  How many of these other approaches are BETTER than all of the above?  In what ways and cases are they better?

 

Q3) Is there a "College Board Trick™" that can be applied to this problem?  (For instance, is it possible to solve for x*y directly somehow without solving for the individual variables.  I don't think there is in this case, but this is something the student needs to consider before starting.)

 

Q4) Assuming the student knows about these three main algorithms, how do they know which one to choose for this particular problem?

 

Q5) Why did EVERYONE solve this problem using paper?  (DS18 only did it in his head on a challenge.)  Why is paper faster in this case?  How does the student know a priori?

 

Q6) Why did Khan Academy use M1->S1->C3 as their approach in the solution provided?  This approach certainly gets the lowest score on both F1 and F2.  In other words, it is the LEAST likely approach if you want to get the correct answer and it is certainly the SLOWEST solution approach.  As a tool for test prep, I find it deplorable that they aren't teaching best practices.  How often is Khan Academy teaching inferior techniques?  10% of the time?  50%? 90%?  Is this REALLY how we want to teach our children to do algebra?

 

Q7) Why did DS18 approach this with M2->S1->C3 while DS16 used M1->S2->C3?  They both learned the material using exactly same curriculum (Chalk Dust).

 

Q8) Did Mr. Mosley (in the Chalk Dust videos) teach both M1 and M2?  Did he teach both S1 and S2?  (I know he does NOT teach skipping steps on paper, at least not initially.)  Does he give ANY instruction about how to decide which approach to use when?

 

Clearly the answer to many of these questions is "practice, practice, practice", but if your practice tool (prep books and Khan Academy) are teaching worst practices, is that really going to get you where you need to be?  What if the student is never exposed to M2?  (I suspect many are not.)


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#26 RegGuheert

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 06:37 PM

When he writes problems down, does he do them very neatly and carefully like he might for homework, or does he have a more fluid scribble to use for testing?  I ask this because one of my kids was very meticulous on his end of year testing, but then had trouble finishing on time.  He definitely needs to find a testing speed that lets him jot figures down, but isn't necessarily fit for wider distribution.

 

ETA:
My math script is fluid, almost cursive. Your DS18 probably has a strong working memory.

 

I really think he is too neat.  But this neatness has served him very well in getting to where he is.  He is excellent at solving these problems accurately today.  But it slows him down.  So how do we "correct" a habit which has served him so well?  It's a tricky situation.

 

Some good news: DS16 did a 15-minute timed mini-quiz in Math with Calculator and got ALL of the problems correct in the allotted time today! :hurray: That's good since he is at skill level four in ALL areas and therefore does not get softball problems in these quizzes.

 

He is making progress on the speed front! (JAWM!)


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#27 RegGuheert

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 06:42 PM

Also, there is a difference between the "concept" of the problem (AKA: true math, system of equations) and the "trick" of the problem (SAT short-cutting, or as you put it up-thread, "engineering estimates"). They are 2 different ways of approaching the problems, and sometimes kids who are strong in "true math" never even think to try short-cuts (because they feel "wrong").

 

This absolutely describes DS16.  He is not as "intuitive" as DS18 (or MomsintheGarden or I, for that matter).

 

For instance, the other day I described how I could tell which of two sets had more members based on how close the average of both sets was to one set's average relative to the other one.  Even after going through that in some detail, he admitted that he did not have a feel for that.



#28 Arcadia

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 07:45 PM

Q5) Why did EVERYONE solve this problem using paper? (DS18 only did it in his head on a challenge.) Why is paper faster in this case? How does the student know a priori?

Q7) Why did DS18 approach this with M2->S1->C3 while DS16 used M1->S2->C3? They both learned the material using exactly same curriculum (Chalk Dust).



Q5) my kids and I solve using paper because you said your 16 year old child wrote his steps down. So easier comparison for could the question be solve fast while still writing steps down. I took 1 min 24s, not very fast but not horrible since I was in a relax mode. My oldest could do in his head but I told him to do whatever way to beat the clock. Apparently writing some stuff done is faster. Once I solve for x or y mentally, I would have wrote that down. I won't trust my working memory to retain it given test conditions. Then I would have wrote down the solved value of the other variable. So minimum two lines.

It boils down for my kids and I to know thyself when solving whether it is math or balancing chem equations or physics. When you read a physics problem, how do you tackle it. What concepts do you think you are being tested on. Is there a quick and dirty way if it is a multiple choice question? If no quick and dirty way comes to mind, just do it whatever way you can think of instead of wasting time thinking shortcuts.

Q7) because even identical twins do not work out problems the same way :) My kids use the same aops curriculum but sometimes differ on how they solve. Makes my life interesting grading their work.

This absolutely describes DS16. He is not as "intuitive" as DS18 (or MomsintheGarden or I, for that matter).

AMC8, AMC10 and AMC12 indirectly trained intuition. These are no calculator exams so kids taking have to think smart to solve or guess as many as possible and bubble the answer in the time given. Playing Pacman and Tetris might have helped in the beat the clock mentality, no time to over think.

ETA: My kids took all three AMC. One kid was the shortest in the room :lol:

Edited by Arcadia, 29 July 2016 - 07:49 PM.

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#29 Arcadia

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 10:40 PM

I really think he is too neat. But this neatness has served him very well in getting to where he is. He is excellent at solving these problems accurately today. But it slows him down. So how do we "correct" a habit which has served him so well? It's a tricky situation.

As an engineer sometimes we need ballpark figures and sometimes only as accurate as possible values would be acceptable. I don't think you need to correct such a useful habit. Instead just tell him some ways of doing things fall under test/task management strategies. A timed test would involve a different mindset then an untimed test or any work that requires showing steps.

His neatness and accuracy would be wonderful for coding, proofs, auditing, patents paperwork and civil engineering work for example.

Has he taken the SAT math or SAT physics subject tests? Similar test prep strategies apply.

ETA:
I am a CSE married to a EEE, so dual engineer family :)

Edited by Arcadia, 29 July 2016 - 10:42 PM.

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#30 StephanieZ

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 12:32 PM

One thing to try is to focus some SERIOUS work on learning proficiency with that calculator. He should be using the TI Graphing one. If he's not, fix that NOW.

 

My 17 year old has decided to take his senior year at the local high school (GASP! First time not homeschooling for our family!) and the summer assignment for AB Calculus had about 10 hours of videos on using the graphing calculator. DS has had that calculator for several years and been using it exclusively for PSAT (NM expected!), SAT, APs, etc, and he apparently knew diddly squat about how to use it effectively (despite my urging to learn it and to use the Dummies book I bought, etc.) While he was using these videos, he kept coming to me and saying "LOOK AT THIS!!" 

 

My eldest who has completed lots of college math courses (and lots of Calculus, etc, etc) and was also a NM Scholar -- never learned this stuff. I will make sure my youngest does this series of videos well before she takes PSAT, etc. 

 

Here is the relevant portion of the summer assignment.  (DS said there were really 28 videos and he did them all, FWIW.)

 

Graphing Calculator Proficiency

 

o Go to https://online.math....Calc/index.html. Watch each video for Topics #1-22, and

practice completing them on a graphing calculator.

WHAT WILL I TURN IN FOR A GRADE IN AUGUST?

 

Title your paper “Graphing Calculator Proficiency.” For each topic (Topics #1-22), list the topic itself and then provide the instructions (in your own wordsplagiarism will result in a grade of a zero for the assignment) of how you would complete each operation on your graphing calculator. Be very clearyou will be graded based upon how well the teacher can follow your calculator steps to perform each of the topics reviewed. 

 

https://online.math....Calc/index.html

 

 


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#31 Muttichen

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 12:44 PM

My kids never had trouble with time on the PSAT/SAT, but in Mathcounts, we found that it was really helpful to have them do the problems in less time than they'd really have (say twenty minutes instead of forty) and take it as a challenge to see how many problems they could get and to try to increase the number each day.  After a couple of weeks of practicing that way, the full forty minutes seemed like an incredible amount of time.

 

It also helps to practice things that come up a lot, like similar triangles, special right triangles (30-60-90, 45-45), etc.  If you get used to those, many problems that look complicated are actually quick and easy.  On algebra problems, look for ways to cut time.  For example, if the problem says "5x + 6 = 9.  What is 10x + 3?" , you don't need to solve for x -- just solve for 5x, double it, and add 3.  I do lots of SAT tutoring, and it is rare to see an algebra problem that doesn't have a significant shortcut available.  I always tell kids that there is no way they are expecting you to do lots of clunky algebra.  Learn to look for shortcuts.

 

Also -- I have no experience with the new PSAT, but on the new SAT, the problems gradually get harder UNTIL you get to the section where you are bubbling in the answers (not multiple choice).  I tell kids that if they are starting to get bogged down, skip ahead, do the easy ones, and then come back.


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#32 Penelope

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 11:00 AM

Really, what you call "number sense and possibly algebraic skills" boils down to what I would call algorithm selection. You need to know how to accurately apply algebraic manipulations to solve these equations using any approach (accept the calculator-only approach). Let's take a closer look at the algorithms I have seen used for this problem so far:

Main Algorithm Selection:

M1) Solve one equation for one variable wrt the other and plug that into the second equation. Solve for the second variable. Plug solution back into one of the original equations and solve for first variable.

M2) Multiply one of the two equations by a factor to make one of the two coefficients the same in both equations. Subtract one equation from the other. Solve for the remaining variable. Plug solution for that variable into one of the original equations and solve for the second variable.

M3) Apply linear algebra to the problem to allow for a solution using matrix math. Invert the 2x2 coefficient matrix and multiply it by the 2x1 constant matrix to get the 2x1 solution matrix.

Secondary Algorithm Selection:

S1) Do not simplify any fractions first.

S2) Simplify fractions before solving.

Computation Approach Selection:

C1) In your head. (Animal)

C2) Using a calculator. (Mineral)

C3) On paper. (Vegetable)

Figures-of-merit for making these selections (in order of importance):

F1) Probability of getting the correct answer with this approach. (If you get the wrong answers on the test, your speed does not matter.)

F2) How long does it take to get the answer?

F3) Does the approach give the student a good "sense" of what is going on mathematically. (Frankly, a bit less important during the test, but very important overall.)


Many questions arise when I think about all these choices which must be made by the student:

Q1) How does the student choose these three main algorithms form the MANY algorithms available?

Q2) How many OTHER algorithms are out there to solve these equations? (Rhetorical question: Infinite) How many of these other approaches are BETTER than all of the above? In what ways and cases are they better?

Q3) Is there a "College Board Trick™" that can be applied to this problem? (For instance, is it possible to solve for x*y directly somehow without solving for the individual variables. I don't think there is in this case, but this is something the student needs to consider before starting.)

Q4) Assuming the student knows about these three main algorithms, how do they know which one to choose for this particular problem?

Q5) Why did EVERYONE solve this problem using paper? (DS18 only did it in his head on a challenge.) Why is paper faster in this case? How does the student know a priori?

Q6) Why did Khan Academy use M1->S1->C3 as their approach in the solution provided? This approach certainly gets the lowest score on both F1 and F2. In other words, it is the LEAST likely approach if you want to get the correct answer and it is certainly the SLOWEST solution approach. As a tool for test prep, I find it deplorable that they aren't teaching best practices. How often is Khan Academy teaching inferior techniques? 10% of the time? 50%? 90%? Is this REALLY how we want to teach our children to do algebra?

Q7) Why did DS18 approach this with M2->S1->C3 while DS16 used M1->S2->C3? They both learned the material using exactly same curriculum (Chalk Dust).

Q8) Did Mr. Mosley (in the Chalk Dust videos) teach both M1 and M2? Did he teach both S1 and S2? (I know he does NOT teach skipping steps on paper, at least not initially.) Does he give ANY instruction about how to decide which approach to use when?

Clearly the answer to many of these questions is "practice, practice, practice", but if your practice tool (prep books and Khan Academy) are teaching worst practices, is that really going to get you where you need to be? What if the student is never exposed to M2? (I suspect many are not.)


Those are good questions.

m2 is taught in the algebra books I have looked at. I think it is usually called Solving a System of Equations by elimination, something like that.

I don't know why Khan Academy would not show more than one way of solving it. While I have used Khan academy here and there, I have not always been thrilled with it and wasn't planning on using it for regular test prep. Do you feel like it's a pretty good source for test bank questions, though? I guess we may not know that for a while, since the tests have so recently changed. I feel for the kids that are stuck in the changeover. For us, it is a couple of years away, even though we have started prepping and taking the tests for practice purposes.

I think that in general, students will probably choose the algorithm that feels more comfortable and familiar. Even if taught the different ways, they may get used to doing something one way even while taking the class. In math class, it's generally about getting the right answer and not about how long it takes or how elegant the problem solving method is. It's only in these high pressured testing situations that we have to consider what is fastest.

Aren't these tests in some sense testing and rewarding "math intuition"? Whether that is fair or accurately reflects college success is another question. How much of "math intuition" is natural ability and processing speed, and how much is automaticity through lots of practice and pattern recognition through familiarity with the material?

And on that note, do any of the test prep books do a good job of teaching the best or fastest method? Is that the job of the test prep book, or is it more useful as a bank of problems similar to the real test, along with general test taking strategies? Khan Acad. or a book is not going to know how facile the student is with math, or how much or how little the student is capable of doing mentally vs. writing things down. Perhaps Khan Academy is meant to reach a lower level of student, who looks at the sample problem you gave and has no idea how to even begin. For that student, reminding them of the substitution method might be the best approach. Are there books that are better for students who are more than competent with the math and are ready for fine-tuning strategy, or is that more the purvey of individual tutoring and more intense test-prep courses?
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#33 Sebastian (a lady)

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 11:10 AM

I haven't seen the new edition for the revised test, but we liked Up Your Score because it did discuss testing strategy and how to recognize math problems that had an easier solution anda more complicated solution.
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#34 Heigh Ho

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 11:22 AM

Q6..its becausd more students can learn it quickly. My nonmathy son's teacher did something similar with probability...taught how to plug and chug on the calclator, but didnt teach the fundamental concept. He picked up 50 points on his sat math score once he knew the concept, and could reason rather than crank .

Prep books are aimed at different audiences. Someone moving their sat math or readingscores up from a 650 needs an approach that gives them good practice in seeing all of the concepts tested by the question, and may need some instruction if their coursework skipped certain topics or details in certain topics. X operation Y for ex, was totally neglected by my sons' teachers.. I had to pull the material off of jmap.org to prep for the Regents Exam as it wasnt covered well in the test prep book either.

Edited by Heigh Ho, 31 July 2016 - 11:28 AM.

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#35 creekland

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 11:52 AM

  What if the student is never exposed to M2?  (I suspect many are not.)

 

I can't fathom a math class where students aren't exposed to it.  At the average school where I work, all three typical methods of solving (equal values, substitution, elimination) are taught and practiced.  Then too, graphing is an option (though not a good one for the problem given).

 

The only "tricky" part to that question is the fractions.  Some kids freeze with fractions (not having learned them well) and instantly consider a problem that has them difficult.  If a kid can overcome that stereotype, that was an easy problem IMO.  It could easily be one on the PSAT IMO.

 

Can't answer as to why Khan showed the method they did.  At my school, kids would have been expected to multiply, then subtract (or add if they opted to multiply by a negative).


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#36 Caroline

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 12:01 PM

I can't fathom a math class where students aren't exposed to it. At the average school where I work, all three typical methods of solving (equal values, substitution, elimination) are taught and practiced. Then too, graphing is an option (though not a good one for the problem given).

The only "tricky" part to that question is the fractions. Some kids freeze with fractions (not having learned them well) and instantly consider a problem that has them difficult. If a kid can overcome that stereotype, that was an easy problem IMO. It could easily be one on the PSAT IMO.

Can't answer as to why Khan showed the method they did. At my school, kids would have been expected to multiply, then subtract (or add if they opted to multiply by a negative).


I don't know why kids wouldn't be exposed to the elimination method. We certainly teach it in Georgia. It is is listed specifically in our standards.

On a test where time was the important factor, I would throw the whole thing into a matrix, hit the RREF (reduced row echelon format) button and get the answer out. We teach matrices in Algebra 2. I make my students do it by hand so they know what they are doing and why it works, but for the SAT or PSAT or ACT, i teach them to use the calculator. They do have to do one by hand with explanations on a test for me, though.
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#37 creekland

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 12:52 PM

I don't know why kids wouldn't be exposed to the elimination method. We certainly teach it in Georgia. It is is listed specifically in our standards.

On a test where time was the important factor, I would throw the whole thing into a matrix, hit the RREF (reduced row echelon format) button and get the answer out. We teach matrices in Algebra 2. I make my students do it by hand so they know what they are doing and why it works, but for the SAT or PSAT or ACT, i teach them to use the calculator. They do have to do one by hand with explanations on a test for me, though.

 

That is one drawback to our school.  We teach matrices in Alg 2, but not until the end of the year and then they can get very short time.  Students don't ever really get comfortable using them for anything practical.  Kids pick them up more in College Alg, but that tends to come after the PSAT for most.

 

But elimination method is also part of our standards (pretty sure it's Alg 1 and not 2, but I'm not looking it up) and problems like it can be on our Keystone test.
 


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#38 Caroline

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 01:09 PM

That is one drawback to our school. We teach matrices in Alg 2, but not until the end of the year and then they can get very short time. Students don't ever really get comfortable using them for anything practical. Kids pick them up more in College Alg, but that tends to come after the PSAT for most.

But elimination method is also part of our standards (pretty sure it's Alg 1 and not 2, but I'm not looking it up) and problems like it can be on our Keystone test.


For us, systems shows up in on level math 8 and then gets reinforced in Algebra 1. I always start with solving by graphing so the students understand what it means to solve a system of equations.

For most of our students, our matrices unit does come too late for the PSAT, too. But I teach algebra 2 to freshmen and sophomores, so they get a chance to use it. (I teach in an advanced academy inside a public school, so I get the top kids. I got the job because I am not a math teacher by training.)

Just an aside, the TI 36X Pro can do almost everything the TI84 can, except graphing. I am convinced TI created it for state mandated tests where the rule is no graphing calculator.
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#39 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 31 July 2016 - 04:04 PM

One thing to try is to focus some SERIOUS work on learning proficiency with that calculator. He should be using the TI Graphing one. If he's not, fix that NOW.

 

My 17 year old has decided to take his senior year at the local high school (GASP! First time not homeschooling for our family!) and the summer assignment for AB Calculus had about 10 hours of videos on using the graphing calculator. DS has had that calculator for several years and been using it exclusively for PSAT (NM expected!), SAT, APs, etc, and he apparently knew diddly squat about how to use it effectively (despite my urging to learn it and to use the Dummies book I bought, etc.) While he was using these videos, he kept coming to me and saying "LOOK AT THIS!!" 

 

My eldest who has completed lots of college math courses (and lots of Calculus, etc, etc) and was also a NM Scholar -- never learned this stuff. I will make sure my youngest does this series of videos well before she takes PSAT, etc. 

 

Here is the relevant portion of the summer assignment.  (DS said there were really 28 videos and he did them all, FWIW.)

 

Graphing Calculator Proficiency

 

o Go to https://online.math....Calc/index.html. Watch each video for Topics #1-22, and

practice completing them on a graphing calculator.

WHAT WILL I TURN IN FOR A GRADE IN AUGUST?

 

Title your paper “Graphing Calculator Proficiency.” For each topic (Topics #1-22), list the topic itself and then provide the instructions (in your own wordsplagiarism will result in a grade of a zero for the assignment) of how you would complete each operation on your graphing calculator. Be very clearyou will be graded based upon how well the teacher can follow your calculator steps to perform each of the topics reviewed. 

 

https://online.math....Calc/index.html

 

Love this!  Thank you so much for it.  I am going to add this to my children's math schedules.

 

I really, really appreciate the time everyone has spent giving us your input.  I especially love the theory of learning ponderings on how real math proficiency is achieved.  I believe with most students true math sense comes from both grappling with difficult problems AND lots of practice.

 

Ds continues to improve.  Reg or I will keep posting about him, with the hope that we will help others, too.

 


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#40 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 10:59 AM

I just want to post an update on ds.  He has been consistently practicing and has really narrowed down his time.  On Tuesday he took a practice test and finished everything but one problem in Section 4, Math With Calculator (MWC).  He finished everything else with a bit of time to spare.  So he has come a long, long way this summer.

 

Here are the best resources we've found so far:

- The three PSAT tests that the College Board has doled out.  They are much more stingy with PSAT practice tests than with SAT practice tests.  We have the 2015 Practice PSAT, the 2015 Official PSAT, and the 2016 Practice PSAT.  Fortunately they are all unique tests.

- The Khan Academy SAT Practice Dashboard.  Ds works at Level 4.  I figured out that the best strategy for ds is to work a complete practice set for Reading & Writing each day, which includes two passage practices, a grammar/word use practice, and a timed mini-section.  For math, though, it works better to do problems at Level 4 and not to do their recommended practice set.  That's because if he misses a math problem in the timed mini-section it puts him back at Level 3 in that skill, so he doesn't get the Level 4 practice he needs.  We've made a shared spreadsheet which he uses to keep track of the skills he practices and his scores.

- The Khan Academy practice SAT tests.  There are six now, so that's good.

- The Ivy Global PSAT book.  The three book tests + 1 online tests have been of good quality.

- The 28 SAT Math Lessons Advanced Course book by Steve Warner.  This series comes in Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.  The author has some tricks and tips I haven't seen elsewhere, and it's only ten bucks in the Kindle version.  We are not through the entire book, but we haven't found any mistakes so far.  That's pretty amazing for a prep book.

- The Khan Academy High School Statistics Mission.  We use the Larson books + the Chalkdust DVDs for high school math and they are solid but don't have stats.  The Larson books do have probability, though, but it's nice to have the KA practice and reinforcement.  Ds is mostly done with the KA Stats mission and is doing well with it.  I will be giving him 1/2 credit of stats for it on his transcript.

 

We have also used several Barron's books:

Math Workbook for the New SAT by Leff

PSAT/NMSQT 1520:  Aiming for National Merit by Stewart

Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT by Stewart

New PSAT/NMSQT by Green, Wolf, and Stewart

We are not that happy with these books.  They have errors here and there so you are always wondering if what you're studying is correct. Their practice test questions are not that great - many do not really reflect the changes in the test (old style), and there are quite a few "bad" questions.  The bad questions are confusingly worded or don't have the correct answer choice.  We feel we know what a good question looks like by now, but take our judgement with a grain of salt.  We are still using these books because we need the practice tests.

 

It's been a lot of prep for ds, but I've noticed that it's helped him so much with his math skills.  He improved and added to his skills AND has increased his speed!  He has also become a much more careful reader.

 

Hope this helps someone!

GardenMom

 


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#41 wapiti

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:05 AM

A couple of quick random notes:

 

Pwn The SAT is a book geared for kids trying to get their math score from good to great.

 

The #5 and #6 tests at Khan are the real SATs from the May administration.  Tests 1-4 are questionable in quality, from what I understand.

 

It's very encouraging to hear that practice helped improve your ds's speed!


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#42 Arcadia

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:12 AM

The #5 and #6 tests at Khan are the real SATs from the May administration. Tests 1-4 are questionable in quality, from what I understand


That is good to know. My slowpoke would also qualify for the SET using the math section if he gets same or higher than Khan. His #1 score was below 700, the rest all above.

Edited by Arcadia, 22 September 2016 - 11:23 AM.

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#43 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:58 AM

A couple of quick random notes:

 

Pwn The SAT is a book geared for kids trying to get their math score from good to great.

 

The #5 and #6 tests at Khan are the real SATs from the May administration.  Tests 1-4 are questionable in quality, from what I understand.

 

It's very encouraging to hear that practice helped improve your ds's speed!

 

Thanks for the tips!  I have been wanting to get Pwn the SAT for a while.  It won't help ds as he doesn't have time, but maybe the youngers.  Yikes about the KA Sat Tests 1-4.  We aren't using them for definitive practice, though, just as part of it.  We did save Tests 5 & 6 for SAT practice after the PSAT.

 

All good to know!
 


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#44 goldberry

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 12:54 PM

For DD, it was just a matter of practice, and getting familiar with the test format.  She didn't think she would ever get it done in the given amount of time.  She was taking at least double the time.  We started out giving her however much time she needed, but the last few weeks she took timed tests every week.  She kept getting faster and faster, and by the time she took the actual test, she was good.


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#45 gstharr

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 03:18 PM

Have never purchased from Global Ivy.  However, regularly use  Global Ivy's free practice tests for our final practice session. The questions are written in the style, language, format of the real test. As to difficulty, my son thinks the questions  are  are harder than the real test.  


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#46 MomsintheGarden

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 03:28 PM

Have never purchased from Global Ivy.  However, regularly use  Global Ivy's free practice tests for our final practice session. The questions are written in the style, language, format of the real test. As to difficulty, my son thinks the questions  are  are harder than the real test.  

It is hard to judge the difficulty of the new PSAT vs. the Ivy Global practice tests because only one new PSAT has been given (the other two are the released practice tests).  We believe the IG tests are comparable in difficulty to the CB PSAT tests, and not more difficult.  YMMV.


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#47 OnMyOwn

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 01:49 PM

I just want to post an update on ds.  He has been consistently practicing and has really narrowed down his time.  On Tuesday he took a practice test and finished everything but one problem in Section 4, Math With Calculator (MWC).  He finished everything else with a bit of time to spare.  So he has come a long, long way this summer.

 

Here are the best resources we've found so far:

- The three PSAT tests that the College Board has doled out.  They are much more stingy with PSAT practice tests than with SAT practice tests.  We have the 2015 Practice PSAT, the 2015 Official PSAT, and the 2016 Practice PSAT.  Fortunately they are all unique tests.

- The Khan Academy SAT Practice Dashboard.  Ds works at Level 4.  I figured out that the best strategy for ds is to work a complete practice set for Reading & Writing each day, which includes two passage practices, a grammar/word use practice, and a timed mini-section.  For math, though, it works better to do problems at Level 4 and not to do their recommended practice set.  That's because if he misses a math problem in the timed mini-section it puts him back at Level 3 in that skill, so he doesn't get the Level 4 practice he needs.  We've made a shared spreadsheet which he uses to keep track of the skills he practices and his scores.

- The Khan Academy practice SAT tests.  There are six now, so that's good.

- The Ivy Global PSAT book.  The three book tests + 1 online tests have been of good quality.

- The 28 SAT Math Lessons Advanced Course book by Steve Warner.  This series comes in Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.  The author has some tricks and tips I haven't seen elsewhere, and it's only ten bucks in the Kindle version.  We are not through the entire book, but we haven't found any mistakes so far.  That's pretty amazing for a prep book.

- The Khan Academy High School Statistics Mission.  We use the Larson books + the Chalkdust DVDs for high school math and they are solid but don't have stats.  The Larson books do have probability, though, but it's nice to have the KA practice and reinforcement.  Ds is mostly done with the KA Stats mission and is doing well with it.  I will be giving him 1/2 credit of stats for it on his transcript.

 

We have also used several Barron's books:

Math Workbook for the New SAT by Leff

PSAT/NMSQT 1520:  Aiming for National Merit by Stewart

Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT by Stewart

New PSAT/NMSQT by Green, Wolf, and Stewart

We are not that happy with these books.  They have errors here and there so you are always wondering if what you're studying is correct. Their practice test questions are not that great - many do not really reflect the changes in the test (old style), and there are quite a few "bad" questions.  The bad questions are confusingly worded or don't have the correct answer choice.  We feel we know what a good question looks like by now, but take our judgement with a grain of salt.  We are still using these books because we need the practice tests.

 

It's been a lot of prep for ds, but I've noticed that it's helped him so much with his math skills.  He improved and added to his skills AND has increased his speed!  He has also become a much more careful reader.

 

Hope this helps someone!

GardenMom

Thanks for posting this.  Where can I find the practice tests the College Board has released?  The only one I am seeing on their website is the 2015 practice test.


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#48 amsunshine

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 03:15 PM

Thanks for posting this.  Where can I find the practice tests the College Board has released?  The only one I am seeing on their website is the 2015 practice test.

 

The 2016 practice test is in the current PSAT booklet that students get when they register for the October 2016 test.  I believe the third test is the actual test from October 2015, which students get a copy of after they take the test.  I would love to know how to get a copy of that one!


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#49 RegGuheert

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Posted 27 November 2016 - 06:41 AM

Here is another update on DS17's PSAT and SAT efforts:

DS17 (then DS16) took the PSAT on October 19 (as a sophomore) and the SAT on November 5.

PSAT: He was still recovering from a cold on October 19 and was struggling with a runny nose during the test. When he would lean forward to work on the test, his nose would run. Unfortunately this cost him time. He did not finish Reading, Math No Calc or Math With Calc. Simply put, he did not make National Merit Semifinalist status and will remain a sophomore (our deal with him was that we would move him up to junior status if he made NMS). He was a bit disappointed by the result given how hard he had worked and that he had missed his goal to move up to junior status, but he is of good spirits now.

SAT: We held back the SAT practice tests #5 and #6 until after DS16 took the PSAT so that he could use them to practice for the SAT. We had him take these tests on paper and transferred the results into KA for scoring. We always had him time but let him finish, recording the overall time and which problems were done after time. He finished sections 1,2, and 3 on both tests, but went over on section 4 (Math with Calculator). Here are his scores:

Practice test #5: R&W: 670 Math: 790 (Section 4 took 60 minutes) Expected actual score: ~1440
Practice test #6: R&W: 750 Math: 770 (Section 4 took 70 minutes) Expected actual score: ~1480

On the actual SAT test, he finished all except two questions on Math with Calculator. Based on his previous practice tests, we are hopeful that he achieved a 1500 (which would be a first, but would also be fully sufficient for his needs). He has shown in the practice tests that he is capable of getting a perfect score any of the sections, but he was still a bit inconsistent going into this test, particularly in Reading.

He should get his SAT scores on Tuesday and we will post them here.

We are very proud of DS17! He has worked very hard and his skill level on these tests has gotten very high. Hopefully over the course of the next year he can continue to improve his speed and consistency so that he will go into the PSAT with a bit of margin. Unfortunately, living in VA, there is very little margin available for students seeking NMS status,

He is currently maintaining his skills by taking the SAT Daily Practice app while he takes precalculus and the rest of his coursework. He will go back into intense practice mode again sometime next summer.

Thanks again to all for your tips and encouragement! It has been a real blessing to us.
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#50 RootAnn

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Posted 27 November 2016 - 04:43 PM

I'm confused. Have you seen his PSAT scores for this fall already? Was this last fall's PSAT? Or are you just assuming he probably didn't make NMS Semi-finalist score-level because it is uber-high for your state & he'd be on the lip on a good day (and it was obviously not a good day for him)?

Cuz DD is eagerly awaiting the week of Dec 12th when the scores are supposedly going to be released to the online accounts!

PSAT: He was still recovering from a cold on October 19 and was struggling with a runny nose during the test. When he would lean forward to work on the test, his nose would run. Unfortunately this cost him time. He did not finish Reading, Math No Calc or Math With Calc. Simply put, he did not make National Merit Semifinalist status and will remain a sophomore (our deal with him was that we would move him up to junior status if he made NMS). He was a bit disappointed by the result given how hard he had worked and that he had missed his goal to move up to junior status, but he is of good spirits now.

 


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