A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork

I saw this news yesterday and had to smile: the SAT exam is being redesigned to better match school work. That’s exciting alone because it has been woefully out of touch with the real knowledge required to do well in college.

In particular, this caught my eye (emphasis mine):

The changes are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary challenges will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.

For any of you who have been long-term readers of this blog, you know I spent about 1/3 of Infinity Softworks’ history in math education. What we found is that schools will only use in the classroom what is allowed on the exams. Because the AP, SAT and ACT exams only allow hardware calculators, then only hardware calculators are used in the classroom.

We came very close to upsetting this apple cart. Our software on a PalmPilot was approved for trials on AP exams but before we could implement it Palm fired their education team and the College Board backed out. A decade later and there still are no software calculators available for any of these three exams. In fact, I believe we are the only company in the world who has software calculators available in any standardized exams [1].

The best thing that could happen to classroom advancement of mathematics is the elimination of these calculators on these three most critical exams. It’s like using DOS in a windows world. Most students are turned off by the 30-year old technology more so than the topic. Removing them from exams would open up a world where software could penetrate the classroom, and students could finally get back to learning math rather than learning which buttons on their calculator to press.

[1] A version of powerOne is available in CLEP exams and in the Praxis, Texas and Georgia teacher licenser exams.