Trying to find math inside everything else

Math Practical

I was proctoring the Earth Science Regents exam today, and after the students finished I had to direct them to go take the Practical part of the exam in another room. And it got me thinking: why is Earth Science the only exam with a practical? Certainly at least the other sciences should.

Then I thought, well, the foreign language exams do have practicals: they have both a listening section and an oral section, as well as reading and writing. That’s everything. Same for the English exam. And, in a way, the social studies exams do to, in that the DBQs could be considered practicals in that historians work by analyzing various documents. (Though a research aspect would be more pactical.)

So then that got me thinking about having a Math Practical as an exam. It’s totally doable, and I think it would be an interesting idea. How would it work? Here’s an example:

Student goes into a classroom. The proctor hands over supplies: a measuring tape, a clinometer, a Home Depot circular, and a calculator. The exam question is simple: how much would it cost to paint this room? And included must be a margin of error on their calculation. So they need to measure length and width properly, use a clinometer and trigonometry to get the height of the room, calculate surface area, calculate and subtract non-painted areas, turn that surface area into gallons of paint, and then that into a cost. They may even need to calculate exposed surface area of things like cylindrical pipes, too. It’s all math content, but something that is actually done.

Maybe I’ll implement it next year as an exam. If only I didn’t teach trig and surface area right before the Regents….

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