Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Recommended Math for GAT Test Prep

I have made progress in my quest for the perfect math workbook to teach thinking skills and am prepared to make a recommendation.  Many of you with kids beyond 1st grade have complained about the paucity of test prep material.

First, I found Eureka on the Engage New York web site.  It turns out all of the material is free, but teachers complained about having to do so much printing so a publisher is creating books.  Here is a sample lesson (pdf at bottom of their page) for 3rd grade.

If you google Eureka you'll find a site that makes you register to print the same material so don't go there.

The course appears to be exactly like I teach my kids when they are learning to solve problems, and how I teach my little one new and advanced topics.  The material teaches the problems solving methods (with the exception advanced methods)  It makes kids do all of the work and gives the teacher prompts and questions to ask.  The goal is an understanding of mathematics.   Their heart is in the right place, but it would be a perfect math course for a large school district or the inner city.  If you are aspiring to get your kid into a GAT program or keep him there, then this is not going to help unless you don't know how to teach math and are tutoring your child, in which case you can peruse the material for ideas.

My idea of mathematics is to teach the kids to think and once they know how to think, they can teach themselves math.

Next, I found the Noetic math competition.   This is very interesting to me because the questions are very very hard, require a lot of thinking, but don't use high school math concepts like the SAT practice book. Here is a sample, and here are more samples under the heading "gifted".  These questions are really hard. This is very promising, and I'm going to download the 2012 test for at least a few grades even though they charge $7 per grade.

As you may recall in my insanity I started using the SAT Test Prep book to teach math.   It was really odd in that I don't feel like my son took away any understanding of high school math; I don't think he could solve the same problem  5 minutes after we did it together if I erased the answer.  Some of it was incredibly tricky and he could do it if it didn't involve 2 quadratic equations with 2 unknowns.  But he went from the 50% in reading a question to the 99th percentile in 2 months.  I am reluctant to recommend this approach because you have to be in the 99th percentile of pain tolerance to pull it off.  He got some of them right, and some of them were just futile. Did he get anything out of it?

Here's the result.  I downloaded a copy of the Massachusetts middle school math competition exam from this year and picked 2 questions that I thought he would get wrong after 45 minutes of struggle.  One was very tricky, and the other took me more than a few minutes to figure out.  I warned him that the test is timed, and that students have 15 minutes to answer 3 questions, so focus on a good strategy before answering.

He got them both correct in less than 2 minutes.  I think I'm on to something.

The Nordic questions are absolutely perfect for studying for a gifted exam.  The questions are so goofy that they're barely math.  Between the Nordic questions (working a grade or 2 ahead) and the IMLEM questions, you've got your Test Prep Math workbook.  This is what I recommend for the COGAT for after 1st or second grade.    You can get past tests and sign up for 10 weekly wacky work problems.

Lastly, there's the math league.  They have been kind enough to put all of the tests on the web for free.  The material looks slightly harder than Nordic, but more math in nature.

Use this until I get around to writing my own text book, which will be even harder, but at the pace I'm working your kids will finish law school before I'm finished.

For those of you that are as skeptical about our performance on the test, here is the test.  I assigned question 2 from category 1 and question 3 from category 6.  I'm looking at the rest of the problems and you either have to know obscure math relationships or be a math geek, or be a really good problem solver. We'll see how he does on the rest of the test.  Probably will take him more than 5 more minutes.  But at least his effort is paying off and I feel like we are focusing on the right things.

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