Saturday, September 8, 2012

Picturing Social Injustice

I wanted to take a photo of one of the many benchmark exams our district requires its students to take, but decided it was probably better not to post such a thing online for general access.  Instead, I posted an online resource referencing the academic benchmarks.  

I teach math.  Not English.  Math.  One of the beautiful things about math is that it has its own language.  English learners struggling to keep up in other subjects have the ability to excel in mathematics, that is, until we turn math into an English test.  The benchmark exams I've seen can be so wordy that large paragraphs dominate the first pages.  I am all for supporting word problems and real-life application of math, but these benchmarks seem to have gone overboard.  They have become reading comprehension tests, excluding English learners and low-level readers from excelling in a subject they otherwise might shine in.  


  1. I completely agree with you Melissa. Math is its own language. I understand the need for benchmarks and testing, but why should the state mix math with reading comprehension? It does not make sense. You are right, students who are ELL could have the opportunity to excel in this subject, but instead they can't understand the wordy questions. It's terrible!

  2. Math is its own language, indeed. Being able to read and decipher it is essential to comprehending what the numbers mean. The story problems make the math meaningful for many students, rather than something abstract that they are convinced they will never use. I don't think there is any major problem in the world that has a solution devoid of quantitative analysis and application. Your students have to to know the language of math to understand how to apply it. Math is a rather beautiful language, I think. Your challenge is likely to get your students to see and value the use of quantitative reasoning.