Thursday, June 30, 2016

SAT Prep Course, part C Resources

Resources are in the Dropbox Folder:

I've sorted through and organized a bit.  Everything is in PDF form. Some are from a test prep company that shall remain nameless; I tore apart the book and scanned it. Some are from another test prep book from 25 years ago, long out-of-print, also scanned. Other material has been cribbed from my math tests from various classes and mixed with problems from whatever source I ran across. Your value may vary. The practice tests are from ETS.

  • Because you may need to go back this far. I know that many mistakes are made here -- any students who scored below 500 should renew their acquaintance with this material. This is fractions, and percents, and ratios, and which is bigger. 
  • A collection of questions based on the newest category (The Heart of Algebra), as well as Algebra I papers, practice sheets and other questions.  I was surprised at the number of questions in the Practice tests that directly required writing equations to find a scenario, or writing systems of equations and solving them.
  • The amount of Geometry in the test has decreased significantly from the 2014-style tests to the 2016-style tests. There still some, so we need to review it, but the focus has shifted to Algebra.
Practice Tests from the ETS.
  • Placed here for convenience. You could have downloaded them yourself, but Dropbox allows you to get a whole folder. So there's that.
Further notes, cautionary lectures and other miscellaneous materials will be placed in the main folder after July 4th.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SAT Prep Course B, Topics

I spent some time looking over the sample test and "sorting" by topic (or Proficiency, if you will). This list will morph a bit as ETS reacts to to results of the first few administrations, but it feels very much like it always has, with some updates.

My philosophy is to move from the obvious and the simple to the complex and multi-stage in each topic. Level one questions through level 4: "Easy", "Medium", "Hard", "Ignore Unless".

If the students are answering easily, jump to later questions. If they screw up, add in more scaffolding. Everything I do in SATPrep has already been "taught" - I provide the review and some test-taking strategies that are specific to the SAT. I also believe in using the old ETS question-type of Quantitative Comparisons as they provide a great opportunity to have good Number Theory discussions.

Here, then, is what I see:
(Please add anything in comments)

  1. compound fractions, mental math.
  2. rate, ratio, proportions 
  3. percents and decimals
  4. Pythagorean Theorem
  5. Pure Radicals ( √300 = 10√3)
  6. Stats: five-number summary, central tendency & number theory.
  1. linear functions
  2. scatterplots w/ writing equations
  3. inequalities
  4. linear systems - all three methods
  5. bar graphs, line graphs, odd choices for independent/dependent, other graphical interpretation. These are now included in the reading section.
  6. stats (mostly central tendency) and probability
  7. functions and function notation
  8. quadratics and complex numbers
  9. late algebra 2: rational, radical, polynomial functions
  1. Lines and angles
  2. Similarity (proportions, part-part or part-whole) and Congruence
  3. Right triangle trig
  4. Circles
  5. 3d shapes
  6. Pythagorean Theorem, radicals ( √300 = 10√3) as used in geometric questions
  1. Grammar - common grammatical errors. These are fun.
  2. Graphical Interpretation for the math that has been mixed in with the Reading
  3. Vocabulary - Latin and Greek, looking for patterns.
  4. Essays types - more about rejecting English class writing in favor of brutally efficient five-paragraph format.
  5. Reading non-fiction for content and vocab rather than talking skills
There is no teaching of reading skills at this level, only exposure to more reading. I assign essays, research, and articles written by college professors, scientists and other intelligent writers. "The Median Isn't the Message" by Steven Jay Gould, for example. In choosing, I look for complex sentence structure, dense thoughts, broad vocabulary and a willingness to assume the reader has a brain.

Next: some of the worksheets and problem sets.
This may take a few days because I want to wrangle things and rename files.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

SAT Prep Course A, the Set-up

So, you've been allowed to create an SAT Prep Course (or assigned one). What now? Pat yourself on the back and be ready for a wild ride.

The first thing in your planning is to eliminate the idea that this will be a math class, taught like any other math class, made up of students who resemble a typical math class.

If your assignment is anything like mine have been over the years, you will have an incredible mash of abilities and a mandate to "Do something".  In no other mathematics scenario will you get a math class with honors pre-calculus students and informal geometry students at the same time. In one sense, this is a recipe for disaster. It can be managed, however.

To start with, your students will all suck at math. (No, really!) Even the best ones have forgotten the most basic ideas. √300 = 10√3 - what magic is this? Proportions and fractions - who knew?

Your goal is to teach everything from pre-algebra to pre-calculus in one-half a credit ... partly by "quick reminders" and 10 question quizzes, and mostly by a thorough cleaning-out of all the topics the test won't cover ... and they don't cover a lot.

Of necessity, the tests are very predictable in their choices of topic and question. They are predictable in their style. This is what makes them good comparisons from year-to-year.

It is at this point that many people pooh-pooh standardized tests and decry the amount of time spent preparing for them and wringing hands over the lack of engagement ... fuck that.  You need to be on-board with testing, just this once.

You need to be encouraging and instill a sense of us vs them, us vs the test-makers.  This is a competition between your students and some question makers ... and your students can win this thing.

Yes, the test is biased against black, Latinos, poor people -- so what? They still need to win this game. Yes, testing is bad, but rebelling against the system is stupid because it doesn't make you better at testing, or at taking the SAT.  "If you aren't taking the SAT, why are you here?"

Yes, this is taking time, which is why your school isn't asking the actual core courses to include this stuff.

I can tell you which questions are easy or difficult, and why, without seeing the test. By the end of your first week, so will your students.

Finally, this is not a math test, nor is it an English test. It can be manipulated and out-thought.  The essay isn't meant to be graded by your kindly, old Dr. Phillpots, chairman of the SHS English department, and 35-year veteran teacher. It will be read by (maybe) college graduate, or high school graduate, earning $10 per hour, given 45 seconds for each one. All of the math test will be scored by a machine.

Fortify yourself. Your new Prep course will run against everything you think of as a typical HS math or English course. Repeat the mantras,
  • "Us vs Them". 
  • "It's not a math class, it's a prep class." 
  • "We won't cover everything. We are reviewing (and maybe filling in a few holes). You've already taken Geometry."
  • It's scored on a curve."
  • "We're always looking for improvement."
  • "The course is pass-fail. The test is a number in search of an improvement."
So let's get going. Action Step One:

Get the four sample tests and scoring guides and answer sheets from (make an account, if you have to) on the practice test page. Take the first test and read through each section carefully; familiarize yourself with the general type of question, seeming difficulty, topic. This will help you understand what I'm talking about when we discuss things further.
 You should start with reading the sample test through from start to finish. This is NOT the test you took when you took an SAT before applying to college. The format is different, the pacing is different, the topics are slightly different and more advanced, and the resources that your students will have access to are immensely different.

If you want to take it yourself as a refresher, feel free. Download, print, and go. Follow the directions and stick to the posted times.

I'll check back in again in a couple of days.