*section as part of the grade 6*

**no-calculator***. The results for 2016 were not spectacular, unless you think mediocrity is worthy of applause.*

**Provincial Achievement Test**

*, which promotes the use of math based puzzles in the K-9 classroom, I am very interested in K-9 math education. And I am dejected when I read that our students are doing poorly.*

**SNAP Mathematics Foundation**I have recently taken a look at the grade 6 Math PAT. It did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. The test by itself cannot account for the less than stellar results, but I do have some quibbles.

### Part A questions

The Alberta Grade 6 math PAT has two parts. The questions for Part A, the no-calculator part,are described as being of

*For example:*

**low cognitive difficulty.**It is difficult to believe that a typical grade-sixer would stumble over questions like these. But apparently a lot did:

**almost 35 % failed to meet the acceptable standard.**

**Wow.**

**Are you still unwilling to jump onto the back-to-basics bandwagon?**

When the results of Part A were released, David Eggen, our education minister, reacted like this:

And there it was. Boom. Big place for room for improvement for basic skills.

*. . . He also said that he*

**BUT***to see poor results on Part A of the test.*

__expected__I like what David Eggen is doing with education, but I didn't

*that last comment.*

__expect__Permit me to digress a bit. A few years back, my gas company sent consultants to do a free inspection of my heating system. You can guess what happened:

*, and they tried to convince me to buy an expensive high-efficiency furnace.*

**my system was found to need rehabilitation**### What is the test like?

The best way to understand what a test is like is to try it yourself. That means you should actually work out the answers, not just look at them and judge whether they are too hard or too easy for a grade six student. Here's a sample test you can download and try:Ted's Sample Part A test

It should take less than fifteen minutes. Be sure to read and follow the instructions to the letter.

The time you take to check your answers should be part of the 15 minutes.

(My sample test is a very slight modification of the one provided by Alberta Education. Their sample test may be found in the link at the end of this post.)

*They are arithmetic computations. The questions for Part B are placed in "*

**no context.***" which is to say that they are arithmetic computations dressed in real world clothing. (To call them real-life is a stretch. You're not fooling the kids, ABED)*

**real-life contexts,**Sad to say, the grade 6 math PAT sample questions quite accurately portray

**the math world I lived in when I was in grades 6 and 7. Sixty-five. Years. Ago.**I have met many K-6 teachers through our SNAP workshops, and the math environment that they create in their classrooms is not at all like the one evoked by the Grade 6 math PAT. (This is a good thing! The effect of my elementary math education was that, afterwards, throughout all of high-school, I

*habitually brushed off math as a possible source of interesting material*. I certainly did not anticipate that math would become a major part of my life. )

### The format of Part A

*T***as a no-calculator test suggests that it is a pencil and paper exam. Well it is, sort of. But, like Part B, it is essentially a**

*he heavy promotion of Part A**test. It is what you would get if you transferred a computer-based test to paper, with the students shading in the bubbles by pencil instead of mouse clicking the appropriate radio buttons.*

**fill-in-the-bubbles**Apart from the possibility of grading rough work (and I don't know if that happens), the main difference between Part A and Part B is that Part B is multiple choice. In Part A, students get to enter a numerical answer.

Students are expected to answer each question in Part A using

**two different formats.**First, by filling in boxes with written numerals, and then by shading in

the appropriate bubbles. The answer template for each question is as shown

to the right. (In my sample test, I provided only the boxes, because the students were able to complete the bubble portion after the fifteen minutes.)

**The numerical answer has to be written in the set of four boxes as follows:**

One digit per box, beginning in the left-hand box.

A decimal point, if needed, goes in its own box.

Unused boxes must be left blank.

So the "correct" way to fill in the the boxes for the question

is as follows:

I'm not sure if any of the students wasted part of the 15 minutes filling in the bubbles. The box and bubble answer templates for all fifteen questions are on an answer sheet separate from the examination booklet.

"What is 7 ÷ 2 ?"

is as follows:

Hmm. What about the smart-ass student who decides to write the answer in one of the following ways:

(By the way, what is an

*? If it is unused is it not already blank??)***unused box**
The bubble portion is to enable machine grading.

**The instructions for completing the bubble portion are:**

So the completely finished answer should look like this:You may fill in the bubbles below each of your answers as youdo the test; however, you may also fill in the bubbles after you have completed both Part A and Part B of the Grade 6 Provincial Achievement Test and your teacher has collected your test booklets.

I'm not sure if any of the students wasted part of the 15 minutes filling in the bubbles. The box and bubble answer templates for all fifteen questions are on an answer sheet separate from the examination booklet.

### About learning the basics

Children do need to learn the basics –– but you and I will probably disagree about what the basics are. Students should be fluent with the basics, but you and I might disagree on what fluency means.The Part A questions were easy, and the grades should be higher. But I'm not sure that fifteen isolated numerical responses to Part A reveal the extent of a student's ability. And, as I intimated above, I have the uncomfortable suspicion that Part A was intended to prove incompetence rather than competence.

### Link:

Alberta Grade 6 Math PAT Bulletin