Monday, August 11, 2014

Two step logic

Test preparation season is only 19 days away, and I'm waking in the middle of the night sweating and yelling out "It's the red square!".   Fortunately, my parent support group Veterans of Freakin' Tests, or the VFT, has resources available to help me with my transition to the civilian life.  Alas, my next tour of duty starts in a year.

Sitting there writing thousands of questions has taught me one thing.  Most test questions apply 2 step logic.  The very first question my first child remembered coming out of the test was a simple picture math problem, but the correct answer was split into 2 awkward looking groups.  Most test questions set up with 2 formal steps, and you'll see this in the test prep literature.  (Except the OLSAT literature errs on the easy side, and I think it's OLSAT in format only but not complexity.)

Most math word problems have 2 steps.

Most problems at work and in life have at least 2 steps.

I think this skill is a big predictor of success in school.

There are a variety of ways that a child can learn two steps.   First of all, it's the nature of our language and most speaking and writing.  There is at least a subject and a verb. Reading a lot will teach this. Reading a lot is great because most of us are tired by the time we see our kids, and reading together will do the work for you.

Puzzles will teach two step logic.   Puzzles are puzzles because there is more than 1 step.

Talking in big sentences from birth gets the job done like a sledge hammer.  Ever wonder whether or not baby talking to your child is good?  It's good to teach talking and proper pronunciation so you don't have to go to speech therapy when you should be doing test prep.  After the child can pronounce words properly, switch to talking to your child like they're in grad school.

Two step logic has some intermediate skills, like identifying the steps and formulating mental models of the problem.  Short term memory and concentration may play a role, but I think something different is going on.

There are a variety of things that can interfere with a child managing both steps to solve a problem. Sleep, hunger, belligerence, and not understanding the language hurt.   It doesn't matter whether the test is verbal, or disguised as non-verbal.

When I do test prep, I take a simple problem, and then pile on the complications.  Or I take 2 simple problems and put them in the same problem, either by stringing them together or by asking that they be solved at once.  My original objective was to make a problem that was twice as hard as the test, just to be on the safe side, and cave man logic determined that 2 problems at once would achieve this objective.   The approach inadvertently got the job done.  If there is not a word yet for that, you may refer to this approach as "Norwooding" the problem.

My most recent graduate of the program that I like to call "Two Steps Away From Hell" is going into first grade.   He likes to shout out the answer to problems that I'm explaining to his older brothers.  (In fairness to them, he answers first because they are not listening to me.)

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