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Topic: Re: the use of calculators (fwd)
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Joe H Ward

Posts: 743
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: the use of calculators (fwd)
Posted: Feb 5, 1997 1:11 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

Chris --

Did this message get through to you? I believe that it did NOT make it to
the apstat-l list, since I have not received a copy via the list.
-- Joe
* Joe Ward 167 East Arrowhead Dr. *
* Health Careers High School San Antonio, TX 78228-2402 *
* Phone: 210-433-6575 *
* *

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 12:58:13 -0600 (CST)
From: Joe H Ward <>
To: Chris Olsen <>
Subject: Re: the use of calculators

Chris --

I'm enjoying this discussion!!!
Here come some of my, as usual, wild ideas which probably have been
explored by College Board, ETS and the development group -- and are
likely not feasible at this time!

1. Could the AP-Statistics exam be given such that the "appropriate"
calculating devices would be temporarily furnished at the site? For
example, the application might say to the student, "you will be provided
any one of following calculators (A,B,C,...) at the site". The students
must specify, in advance, which calculator they wish to use. Then the
various manufacturers should be willing to loan their "approved"
calculators for the day of the test. The contents of each calculator
could be "secured" before distribution to the students. And the
manufacturers should be particularly interested if the College Board and
ETS provide information about the performance of students who use various
calculators. The suppliers should be glad to pay the cost of shipping. So
the main additional cost would be "loading" the various calculators with

2. Ditto for for future use of Digital Computers and Software. This may be
tougher. While it might be unreasonable to ask computer hardware
suppliers to provide desk-top computers, it might be feasible to install
various software packages on desk-top computers at local schools or
colleges where the exam is administered.

3. As hand-held computer costs decrease, then it might be possible to
supply computers for the use of students during the exam.

The problem of "what students bring embedded in their OWN COMPUTING
DEVICES" might be solved by asking the suppliers to loan their
calculators, computers and software for the exam day.

And, repeating from above, the manufacturers should be particularly
interested if the College Board and ETS provide information about the
performance of students who use various calculators. They have a
conveient marketing research tool!

-- Joe

* Joe Ward 167 East Arrowhead Dr. *
* Health Careers High School San Antonio, TX 78228-2402 *
* Phone: 210-433-6575 *
* *

On Tue, 4 Feb 1997, Chris Olsen wrote:

> Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 11:16:57 -0600 (CST)
> From: Chris Olsen <>
> To:,
> Subject: Re: the use of calculators
> Hello Jim and All --
> First, a DISCLAIMER: I am speaking only for myself here, and am absolutely
> not representing these views as those of any other individual or any group.
> I have had some side discussion on this issue with various folks,
> and would like to share my general opinions with All. Please pardon
> possible disjointed ramblings, as I am cutting and pasting from
> three or four e-mailings.

> > For the last several years, I have taught all of my adult ed math courses on
> > an open book, open note basis for all assessment. I have found that this is
> > a reasonable policy since all of the adults are allowed to use a myriad of
> > resources when performing tasks in the "real world". This decision also has
> > motivated a significant upgrade of my previous-used tests since notes, books,
> > and calculators are allowed at all times.

> In my years of teaching stat before AP Statistics I also did this. And I
> think the argument for face validity of the process, i.e. mimicking the
> "real world" is a compelling one.

> > Consequently, loading up a calculator should not present either an advantage
> > or a disadvantage, in my opinion. This feeling is reinforced in the fact
> > that a table of formulas will be provided.

> I think loading up a calculator with programs to do calculations is very
> different than loading up a calculator with alpha information. (Argued
> below.)

> >
> > One further benefit of calculator loading. In my high school classes, I have
> > found that allowing the students to prepare a "cheat sheet" of finite length
> > for midterm and final exams motivates them to be more organized in their
> > study and preparation for the exam. While this may not be as much an issue
> > with the talent of AP Stats students, it is a helpful idea.

> Perhaps we should be able to construct a test for an AP situation as you
> suggest -- cheat sheet, computer at the ready perhaps, and open book
> even. But at present I don't think this possible, and I think it
> will be a fantasy for some time to come. In theory it would be
> possible to get enough examiners, trained will enough, and give a long
> enough test so that a virtually complete and valid and reliable test
> could be given even in the light of the differences in testing situations
> that would almost certainly add unwanted error variance to the test score.
> But who would want to pay $5000 per test?????
> Let me suggest to All that you try to construct the test you envision,
> complete with (a) clear directions about what may be brought into the
> exam which, (b) does not reflect the economic differences inherent in being
> able to bring in whatever you suggest in (a), (c) directions for training
> the readers to an acceptable inter-rater reliability, (d) rubrics for said
> test, and (e) evidence from the literature that any test with so much
> uncontrolled variation has a reliability with any hope of being accepted
> by (1) college departments and (2) lawyers for those who score less than
> they feel they should have.
> Put this dream test and evidence up for discussion. I, for one, would be
> VERY interested. (The Test Development Committee spent much time trying
> to be creative in this area, but we could not figure out how to do it
> without introducing inequities, compromising the integrity of the testing
> process, or making the cost of the test clearly prohibitive!)
> Follows is part of my reply in a separate e-mail.
> 1. The purpose of the AP Stat test (or any test) is to provide
> an unbiased estimate of the level of achievement of the
> student, for various stakeholders, chiefly in this case those
> granting advanced placement.
> 2. The focus of the AP Stat course is on understanding of concepts,
> NOT ability to calculate.
> Given that,
> 1. Computational capabilities of the calculator enhance something
> irrelevant to the purpose of the test.
> 2. Information storage capabilities of the calculator enhance
> something very relevant to the test and undermine its purpose.
> What I think is clearly <Insert appropriate word from list like
> "Immoral, Inappropriate, Antisocial, Unfair, etc." > is to introduce
> crib notes in an electronic form, simply b/c the writers of the
> Acorn book, or teachers guide, or whatever failed to anticipate
> that possibility.
> There are two significant challenges here:
> Writing tests that deny untoward advantages to students with more
> powerful but "legal" calculators -- a challenge to the test writers;
> Providing an understanding that there is a difference between
> what is <Insert word like "proper" > and what is possible --
> this is a challenge for teachers.
> <Snip>
> if widespread
> entry of alphabetic information is suspected, I would argue that the
> use of a calculator with those capabilities should be banned from the
> testing. I do NOT want to have to make that argument, b/c I think
> the calculator can level the playing field on dimensions irrelevant
> to the test (as argued above.)
> If I saw one of my students with information of an alpha nature in
> his or her calculator during one of my tests, I would regard this
> as a very serious breach of academic ethics, certainly equivalent
> to writing information on fingernails or the inside of contact
> lenses or wherever.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> (End of insert)
> I hope this advances the discussion of this issue!
> -- Chris

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