Pros and Cons of Timed Tests

Dear Dr. Linda,

Eddy, our son, is a 10th grader who is taking advanced math. He’s an excellent math student and wants to become an engineer. However, he’s not doing well this year because the teacher gives timed tests. You wrote about the issue with “math-a-minute” for elementary students once. I remember reading it—Eddy was one of those kids who loved math but hated to be timed. It still makes him nervous because he processes slowly.

I’ve spoken to his math teacher many times because Eddy knows the subject, but he often doesn’t get credit for it because he simply can’t go that fast. The teacher argues that if my son is in advanced math he should be able to think quickly and that if he can’t, he can come up with strategies that will help him. He even said that if he can’t think quickly, he shouldn’t be in advanced math. I just don’t agree with him.

Sign Up for E-News

Pat

Dear Pat,

There are two sides to this issue. The educators who argue for timed tests feel that timed tests push students to become more fluent mathematicians. They believe that scientists and mathematicians need to think quickly when working on complicated projects. They argue that eventually, in the workplace, basic math facts and formulas should be second nature, whether it’s in algebra, geometry, trig or calculus. And, to some extent, this is true. The more often we practice anything mentally, the better and stronger the associated neuronal connections are and the faster those neurons “fire.”

Those who argue against timed tests think that because of them, we are losing many students who are excellent in math and have great prospects for STEM-related jobs in the future. And they’re right. There is some evidence that timed tests cause some children’s brains, especially those in first and second grade, to change in a negative way—producing math anxiety and resultant low math achievement. The anxiety instead of the math fact is what gets learned.

Much of this phenomenon begins with “math-a-minute” in the early grades. This is when children are graded on how quickly they can do the addition facts or the times tables. A common task is for children to do 100 addition or multiplication facts in one minute. For children who process information more slowly, even if they understand the concepts, math becomes a nightmare. The effect is similar for children who create wonderful stories but “fail” writing because their handwriting is poor. I wonder sometimes how many able writers we have lost because of a teacher or parent having them rewrite and rewrite because the handwriting wasn’t neat.

So, what do good teachers do? Many teachers have timed tests, but don’t grade them. Some teachers use timed tests as a perfect Friday afternoon activity and allow kids to compete against their own prior times—not the times of other students. This gives all students the opportunity to come up with strategies to improve their timing without the stress of grades. Kids who process information more slowly get the best of both worlds this way.

Children learn the most through games, socialization and repetition. This way, being timed isn’t negative, it’s part of a fun activity with their classmates. Plus, the math student who processes slower than his peers, but understands math just as well, is not penalized.

The issue is grading based on the results, when the grade should reflect understanding of the material taught, not the speed with which it can be demonstrated. Unfortunately, college entrance exams and most standardized tests are timed and many people freeze when taking them, overwhelmed by anxiety. That’s why SAT and ACT scores aren’t the only criteria used by some colleges for admission. And, in the work world, even in jobs that involve mathematical computations, no supervisor will be standing over these kids with a stopwatch.

Dr. Linda

If you have a question, contact Dr. Linda at Stronglearning.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Somers

The Feline Night Stalker

Shades of the late Darren McGavin! If you liked the ‘70s horror shows on TV, you knew him as Kolchak, crime reporter, in the series “The Night Stalker.”

It seems that I have a night stalker living with me. My kitty, Bonnie, had her 18th birthday in April and I’ve noticed some subtle changes in her behavior. Up until that time, Bonnie would sleep on my bed at night. She ...

Hitting the road, Part II

Welcome back to our little trip across these great United States. We left off somewhere on Route 90, heading out of Cleveland.

So glad to have you following along, and frankly, if you’re following I’m just glad you’re not the cops. On the way to Chicago I found myself driving 70 miles an hour, which made the police quite angry, since the speed limit was 75. 

When ...

Sabotaged by the DMV

After living in Manhattan for the last few years, my grandson, Chris, and my wonderful grand-daughter-in-law, Silvia, have decided to move back to his hometown of Westfield, N.J. Silvia has just returned from a four-day visit with her parents in Hong Kong and they are bunking with my daughter, Lisa, while preparing their new home. Because they now have a daily commute to the city, I decided to ...

Do it badly!

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, at least to start. 

As a recovering perfectionist, I have learned to get started on a project even if I don’t have all the pieces together. Sometimes just puttering, tinkering or moving the parts around will help me sort out my brain enough to give me an idea of how to tackle a project.  

I can’t tell you how many times ...

What Kind of Sports Parent Are You?

Social media recently showered a lot of likes and love on a high school pitcher in Minnesota whose team was playing in a regional final that would send the winning team to the state championship game.

After the last batter of the game struck out, the pitcher did something unheard of. Rather than spontaneously join his teammates in an on-field celebration, as is customary, the pitcher ...

Packing Heat

“Are you leaving me?” asked my husband one night as he surveyed the contents of my closet on our bed.

“What? No!” I said. “Why would you think that?”

“Every single article of clothing you own is laid out on our bed,” he replied. “So I have to assume you are either leaving me or you have joined the armed services and if that’s the ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_ac458cf35e59e7e799ad_postcard_bocceside

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

Yorktown Heights

BOCCE OPEN PLAY

Sports

Carousel_image_ac458cf35e59e7e799ad_postcard_bocceside

Tue, June 26, 1:00 PM

Yorktown Heights

BOCCE OPEN PLAY

Sports

Carousel_image_ac458cf35e59e7e799ad_postcard_bocceside

Tue, July 3, 1:00 PM

Yorktown Heights

BOCCE OPEN PLAY

Sports

Excited for Somers Block Party June 30

June 20, 2018

Hello Somers:

The Town is excited this year to partner with the Somers Lions Club, Somers Chamber of Commerce and Sebastian Capital to offer a new kind of Independence Day celebration, at a new location, starting a new tradition with the 2018 Somers Block Party on June 30.

The Block Party will take place at Sebastian Capital’s 1 Pepsi Way property (across from King Kone) with gates ...