Creative Destruction

May 18, 2006

Warning! Spit-Takes Ahead!

Filed under: Blogosphere,Uncategorized — Off Colfax @ 1:20 am

Proceed with caution.

I may have been bad at math tests, but never that bad.
[Turn signal: Zach Wendling of In The Agora]



  1. Is he bad?

    Or an unsung genius?

    After all, his answer is technically quite accurate. He exactly followed the instruction.

    Where he failed, of course, was in not following the meta-instructions; the data provided by his teacher about how to interpret written instructions on exams.

    And in many (most? all?) schools, that knowledge is an important part of what is being tested: can you successfully incorporate meta-data provided by others into your daily activities?

    Comment by bobhayes — May 18, 2006 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  2. In one book, Pattington the Bear enters a quiz show and wins based on ambiguities in the questions.

    “If it takes two men with two buckets two hours to fill a tub, how long would it take one man with one bucket to fill the same tub?” No time at all; the tub is already full.

    If you take an 8 ft. long board, cut it in half, cut each of those pieces in half, and cut each of those pieces in half, how long is each piece?” 8 ft. If you’re a bear, you learn that it’s usually best to cut down the middle.


    As far as I know, a person’s score on any test will reflect both the person’s knowledge of the subject and the person’s test-taking abilities. Imagine the score Einstein would earn on a test of physics word problems – given in Chinese. It may be a perfectly valid score for some purposes, but not others.

    Comment by nobody.really — May 18, 2006 @ 3:07 am | Reply

  3. For one of the jobs I work, I write test questions like the one linked to. It’s especially difficult to eliminate ambiguity, and math questions in particular operate in ideal circumstances unaffected by real world considerations.

    That said, within the context of figure geometry, “find” is understood to mean “calculate,” not “locate.” While admitting that the answer “here it is” is one literally correct interpretation, the context of the question is undoubtedly a math test, not Where’s Waldo? So it’s perfectly fair, IMO, to mark that answer incorrect.

    I’m not sure whether the example is sad or funny, frankly.

    Comment by Brutus — May 18, 2006 @ 11:05 am | Reply

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