Date: Oct 22, 2012 3:27 PM
Author: Dave L. Renfro
Subject: Re: MIT Math Diagnostic for Physics Placement

Dave L. Renfro wrote (in part):

>> I too am rather amazed, but not because they're essentially
>> precalculus level

Robert Hansen wrote (in part):

> I mentioned "precalculus" only to describe the test. I think
> the idea (giving students a precalc diagnostic test) is spot
> on. I am just amazed that MIT freshmen are having so much
> trouble with it. MIT still describes itself as a technical
> school seeking technical applicants. I would have given this
> test as part of the application process, not after.

I also think the topics asked about are fine, except I might
possibly want to include more geometry and trigonometry problems,
especially those that are less computationally focused and more
on being able to grasp and make use of symmetry and things like
the employment of auxiliary lines, except in doing so the test
becomes more focused on potential than on background knowledge
(and my understanding is that the test is mainly to test background
knowledge). To me, asking questions like this of MIT admits
is like asking qualifiers for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
(mid to low 2:20's, 5:20 to 5:30 mile pace) to take a stress
test before being allowed to compete in the U.S. Olympic
Marathon Trials. Or asking that the qualifiers for the NCAA
Nationals in tennis get signed permission forms attesting
to their ability to obtain a tennis racket to use during
the tournament.

Dave L. Renfro