Math = Love: A Question About A Question

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Question About A Question

First, let's celebrate 500 blog posts.  :D  Yay.

Okay, now we can get back to math-y business.

Every year, in preparation for the end of instruction exams my students must take in Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, I try to expose to them to as many released test questions as possible.  I want my students to feel comfortable when taking the test.  I don't want there to be any surprises.  I want them to get used to the way in which questions are worded.  I want them to recognize commonly used distractor choices.  I want to remind them of all the math we have learned that year.  

Most of these questions are your normal snooze-worthy standardized test questions that are less than exciting.  My students tolerate them because they know that their graduating high school depends on passing these exams.  But, you can tell that they are bored.  Honestly, I'm bored, too.

There's one question, though, that for the past three years has always sparked awesome conversations.  Students seem to come alive when discussing this question.  I thought I would share it today.

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education
2011-2012 Released Questions (Algebra 1)
What is it about this question that excites my students?  I want to know because I want to engage my students on a regular basis in the way this question does.

Oh, and if you're interested in seeing more of Oklahoma's past standardized test questions for some reason, here's the link.


  1. I think what excites them about the problem is the answer choices. Something as simple as throwing a ball, driving from one place to the other, is sensible to students. These are things that they can see or do in everyday life. I have found that context makes math more engaging and that, if I can provide it often, I can really get my students thinking.

    1. Very good point! It was a question that my students could visualize.

  2. I think it's also that kids like to argue! I'm guessing your students could come up with some relatively decent arguments for some of the answer choices, even though there is one correct answer. And then they also like to prove each other wrong!

    Also, congrats (and thanks!) on 500 blog posts! I'm working on my first! :)

    1. Thanks, Bethany! My students do LOVE to argue. Some of the wrong answer choices were very tempting for my students, and their classmates did love to point out the reasons why those answer choices could not possibly be true.

      You should definitely leave a link to your blog so we can read!!!