Cent-lessly Lost

, , , , | Learning | August 31, 2017

(Due to the new education curriculum, there has been a lot of discussion regarding new ways to assess learning, the goal being to move away from standardized tests. We’ve made great progress so far, but decide to use a math assessment package at the end of the year, in order to have some data in regards to the students’ math skills. The goal is to enable us to see where we need more math support. Furthermore, since my class of grade sevens are going to go to the high school next year, we want some data to give the teachers that will have them to further help them out. Prior to testing, we comb through the package and edit it so it focuses on mental math and problem solving. I feel confident that the content is good for my students, since we have a lot of review and money knowledge problems. The test starts and one of my students calls me over to help them with a question.)

Question: “Sarah has $5 to spend on golf balls. Used golf balls are 50 cents and new golf balls are 75 cents. Show all the possible ways Sarah could spend her $5.”

Student: “I don’t understand what the question is asking.”

Me: “Okay, so Sarah has $5, and she has to use all that money towards golf balls. So, you’re trying to see how many she can buy with the prices listed.”

Student: “But those are in cents, not dollars.”

Me: “Exactly, so how many cents in a dollar?”

(Silence.)

Me: *growing more and more concerned* “…H-How many cents in a dollar?”

Student: *look of confusion on their face*

Me: “Okay, how many quarters do you need to have one dollar?”

Student: *thinks, then gets excited when they know the answer* “Four!”

Me: “Yes! Now how many cents are in a quarter?”

Student: “25.”

Me: “Exactly, so four quarters equals…”

Student: “75 cents!”

Me: “…No.”

(Normally, I don’t like to give my kids the answers and prefer them to figure it out themselves. For this case, I made an exception. She was then able to figure out the problem on her own, and I really hope that moment of cluelessness was just due to nerves. Even more astounding, we had a transfer student from Asia do that assessment and I only had to explain our currency once before he got it, opposed to the student who was born and raised in Canada!)

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