I’ve given my first geometry test this year (yes, I’m back on geometry, high five to all my geo-buds) and this is the first test I’ve given with the PARCC in mind.
Specifically, I made the phrasing match the technical language of PARCC questions, and I had my first experience with what happens when the students encounter something truly alien to them, like:
The point R is at (0, 3) and the point S is at (16, 7). Draw the line segment .
Find a point L on the line such that is four times as long as .
The first line didn’t go so bad. In a way students can plow through without reading it (draw a line segment? ok there must be points …. there they are!) but the second line had lots of bafflement.
It is a circumstance where vocabulary isn’t the issue, but phrasing is.
The issues seemed to be
a.) Not being clear where the question was; in this case it was directive to “find L”
b.) Students who got past the first hurdle were unclear in juggling the phrasing after; essentially the student brain seemed to go — first I find L, but to do that I need to worry about RS and RL, and somehow RS is — wait what?
c.) That rather than being told what to do (find the midpoint between X and Y) they had to hold a conditional in their head and fuss with a bit before they even understood they wanted a quarter-point to answer the problem.
This sort of conditional indirection seems to be common in PARCC questions: rather than being told what needs to be accomplished, be given some geometric object to assign THEN be told what will happen once that geometric object is in place THEN try to start unpiling what needs to be accomplished for those conditions to hold.
This sort of thing is routine in formal math texts but does not seem to be in the high school experience at all.
(From the PARCC sample Geometry test.)
Does anyone have experience teaching this sort of thing? How does one get students — both fluent and English language learners included — to read statements like the one above without blanking out?
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