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Topic: California SAT-9 Testing.
Replies: 13   Last Post: May 30, 2000 9:39 PM

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Bruce Ikenaga

Posts: 15
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: California SAT-9 Testing.
Posted: May 25, 2000 10:40 PM
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In k12.ed.math Michael Greene <> wrote:
>> On Thu, 25 May 2000 05:37:02 GMT, "Don Blasingame"
>> <> wrote:

>>>"Michael Greene" <> wrote in message

>>>> On Wed, 24 May 2000 13:08:29 GMT, "Don Blasingame"
>>>> <> wrote:
>>>>can anyone recite a classic case of where "algebra for all" worked?
>>>>we will implement algebra for all incoming freshmen this fall, and
>>>>it would be nice to know what we can expect, or what others have
>>>>done that were successful.

>>> Japan, Taiwan, Singapore are countries that have
>>> demonstrated that almost all 13 year olds can handle
>>> algebra.

>>where has mastery of algebra by Japanese, Taiwanese, and Singapore 13
>>year olds been shown?

> The TIMSS tests which are available at UCLA and Boston
> College, test Algebra in the 8th grade.
> The top 5% of the U.S. population were ranked at the 50
> percentile when compared against the Singaporans. When
> scored against the Japanese, they fared a little better and
> scored in the top third.

We should always try to do better, and if these kinds of
comparisons encourage us to try harder, that's fine.

I asked a couple of colleagues --- one educated in Japan,
the other educated in China --- about the success high-school
kids in their countries had in learning math. They told me
several things which show that one should be careful in
making comparisons.

First, high school is apparently not mandatory, at least
not through age 18, as is common in the U.S. I think the age
is 16 in Japan, and there may not be a requirement for
high school in the PRC.

It sounds from my colleagues' descriptions as though there
is much stronger tracking by ability, and done much earlier,
than we have here. I asked my colleague from Japan what kids
who drop out before age 16 might do. He replied that they
might become laborers --- but also, they might apprentice as
chefs, or (he said with a straight face) as stand-up comics!

High school admissions also seems to be competitive, based
on regional examinations. Not everyone *can* go.

I gather from my Chinese colleague's comments that the
percentage of kids in the PRC who complete high school is
rather low --- he said around 60% in urban areas, less in
rural areas.

Both agreed that there were *plenty* of kids who couldn't
do math. They wouldn't show up in tests of high school kids,
because they'd never make it to high school. In other words,
those educational systems aren't universally successful as
far as math goes. The tests may make them *seem* successful,
because they are testing only the successful students.

(I gleaned these observations from informal conversation,
and it's possible that I misunderstood something --- so if
someone else knows more about the educational systems in
those countries, feel free to correct me.)

It's not much fun to try to teach people who don't want
to learn. On the other hand, I'm glad that we *don't* give
up on kids too quickly. The point is not simply to raise
test scores, after all --- it is to do whatever works best
for the society as a whole.

Bruce Ikenaga
Dept. of Math, P.O. Box 1002, :::::::::::::::::::
Millersville University,
Millersville, PA 17551-0302

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