Math Education in New York ?

March 16, 2007

Last week the New York Times had an article that gave examples of questions students in New York State are asked on state tests.  I thought I’d do a little research of my own and see what is asked on various exams given to middle and high school students in New York.  Curiously, it appears that New York doesn’t really expect students to learn much in math between middle and high school.

The 2006 eighth grade math test asks this multiple choice question (question number 24):

Katie converts the outside temperature from degrees Fahrenheit, F, to degrees Celsius, C. She uses the formula below to convert the temperature.

(F-32)(5/9) = C

If the outside temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, what is the outside temperature in degrees Celsius?

F) 2

G) 5

H) 9

J) 10

Now let’s skip ahead to high school.  This question was given on the January, 2007 Math A exam (question number 34), given during the 10th grade:

The formula C = (5/9)(F-32) is used to convert Fahrenheit temperature, F, to Celsius temperature, C.  What temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, is equivalent to a temperature of 10° Celsius?

The directions for this question are: 

Answer all questions in this part. Each correct answer will receive 2 credits. Clearly indicate the necessary steps, including appropriate formula substitutions, diagrams, graphs, charts, etc. For all questions in this part, a correct numerical answer with no work shown will receive only 1 credit.

What kind of work do they want?  This question could easily be solved using a calculator – most scientific calculators have temperature conversion built in.

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