Friday, September 21, 2012

Why I Hate the OLSAT Classification Questions

My son is struggling with the OLSAT classification question. 

I'm not surprised or disappointed.  He won't see most of the practice questions for at least 1 1/2 years, but we've run out of the age appropriate ones and are moving on to the harder ones. 

The ones we are working on look like this.  There are 5 items.  Pick the one that doesn't belong.  A banana, an orange, an apple, a grape, and a truck.

My son will pick the orange.   Why the orange?  Because you don't get juice all over your hands from the other ones.  It doesn't work that way.  You have to follow the rules.

So I bring my older son over.   He already "passed" this test.   He'll do the same thing, only with a goofier, more far fetched answer.

For each of these question types, I have to spend a full month getting the rules down.  Then we can practice them.   I'm not sure this will help on the test, because the logic and vocabulary they are asking is also hit or miss.   My son has never seen a microwave, a 1980's computer, a wind sock.

I'm trying out various algorithms for him to use to organize the questions and his answers.   He's smart enough to know what an algorithm is, but we're having less fun because his stifling his creativity.   I won't publish any of these here until I've worked through the ethics of test preparation and am sure I won't get sued.

I wonder if there are much smarter kids who score poorly on these tests because they make up their own set of complicated attributes and relationships that defy what adults expect.

[Note added October 6, 2012]  We've been reviewing the COGAT classification questions lately.  These appear to be in a different format.   As a disclaimer, I'm working from a stack of published practice tests, and not the actual tests, so I can't verify the format.   So this is the presumed format.  In the COGAT version, there are 3 items in a group, like an orange, a banana, and an apple.  Which of the four choices belongs with this group?  A banana?  A car, toaster, or TV?   It's much harder to twist the question logic with the COGAT practice tests.   I should have used these as a warm up for the OLSAT.

I think that this implies that the COCAT content, the attributes that make each item a member of the group, must be much harder than the OLSAT, because the format is harder.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Competitive Parent Magazine's Parent Reading Guide

There are 3 books for GAT parenting that I think are mandatory reading.   Of course, by GAT, I mean the 80th to 90th percentile.   Parents with 99 percenters need a whole different set of books.

Nurture Shock (2003) by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  You can read their blog to get a flavor of the content of this book.  This book is great to help you understand why the stuff you are doing to give your child an advantage (the nurture) is actually making him dumber (the shock).   This is an excellent book.

Welcome to Your Child's Brain (2011) by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.  These 2 researchers do a very thorough job in providing the latest research to help you teach your child to read, and then continue on through the rest of the developing years.  This is a great book for new parents, because it will help them not waste money on stupid stuff for their baby, or pointless activities that don't work.  You can see their blog as well.

Some of My Best Friends are Books (updated about every 5 years) by Judith Wynn Halsted.  This book discusses reading for children in depth and provides a reading list.   I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but for the march from 80% to 99%, this is the most important thing you can concentrate on, until it's time to choose a college major, and then anything math or science related is fine.   Managing this portion of my child's education is probably my #1 and #2 priority.   I borrowed this from the library and am going to buy it.  

Real Education (2008) by Charles Murray.  You will love or hate this book based on your political persuasion.  However, there are a few sections in this book that discuss an education that a GAT kid would be challenged by and compares it to what most of them get.   This part is very motivating for a parent.  Unfortunately, the curriculum that he cites requires paying.  I'm trying to find a work around.

9-30-2014 Addition - The Well Trained Mind (1999 and later) by Susan Wise Bauer.  This is my favorite book.  Like Read Education, Bauer presents a very high bar for children's educational possibilities.  I've read the first 30 pages about 5 times for inspiration, and then perused the rest of the book to get a flavor for what my children could be learning.   Mental note to self - check this annually to see if the children's formal education is measuring up, and assign books as needed to close gaps.

1-31-2015 Addition - How Children Succeed (2012) by Paul Tough.   In the tradition of Welcome to Your Child's Brain, a journalist presents research on where regulated behavior (aka character) comes from and why it has a positive impact on your child's success.    Hug your kids!  (Note:  There's not a lot of hugging going on in any of my posts.  I tend to focus on other things in my writing.)

There are quite a few gifted books written by parents who try something new and end up with children who teach literature at the college and graduate levels.   If either of my children go to graduate school at Stanford, I too will publish.