Gaming the system

Without a calculator, find the correct answer to 58 X 471

a) 27317

b) 27318

c) 918

Answer c) is too small. The correct answer should have a one’s digit of 8, because 8 X 1 = 8, which eliminates answer a). This is only slightly a math problem. Any student who spent time on a test actually doing the multiplication would be wasting his time. A better problem would include d) None of the above, which has the virtue of making the students actually check to see if b) is correct.

Recently my students were working on their homework in groups and I was circulating and helping them.

“I want help with problem 6,” said the first student.

“Are you on problem 6 already?” asked another student.

“She’s here,” the first student responded. That explained it. The odd numbered problems had answers in the back and this student was doing the even numbered ones while he could get help.

I am not just teaching math, I try to teach some common sense. Sometimes I encourage my students to game the system and it shocks them. It can be as simple as recognizing that in a matching problem, all you have to do is match; any additional work is unnecessary.

Of course people rarely need to be taught to figure out the angles. They want to see old tests and they want me to tell them as much as possible about each test. They also come up with creative ways of working the system. One student told me he was going to go to school for a year without working to ensure he received more money when he applied for a scholarship. His ability to do that suggests that he really did not need a scholarship to get an education.

I know someone who was at first not on social security because she was a teacher. She had worked several short-term jobs before she was a teacher and needed only two more years. She took a Saturday job to get the minimum amount of social security.

Many years ago there was a story about a welfare recipient who won $100,000 in a lottery. He spent it within three months so he could return to getting welfare payments. That kind of gaming the system annoys me and most people who hear about it.

But back to mathematics, I must assume that my students understand how testing works. They should learn the strategies that make the test easier, because they will be compared with students who have figured that out. Because of that, I rarely give multiple choice questions because teachers who give them are

a) lazy

b) overworked

c) both of the above

d) none of the above

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One Response to “Gaming the system”

  1. leaderinlearning Says:

    I would choose answer c) but it is a matter of opinion. There is no right or wrong answer. As a teacher, I have used multiple choice tests for english comprehension where there is a sentence with a word missing and the student has a choice of 10 words to choose from. In this instance I prefer to use multiple choice because I am testing the child’s ability to read the words and secondly to understand the words. Multiple choice gets harder if there are more choices and if the answers are similar. This is real test then, when the student has to work out the answer rather than use elimination.

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