Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Latest Insane Plan

Before I announce my new plan, and freak everyone out, I'm going to issue disclaimers.

Math House is very low pressure.  Our bar is pretty low.   I think a day is successful that has no video games. I have zero expectations.  I never know if the next paper I grade will be all wrong or all lucky.

Let's go through plans of the past and how they generally turned out.

  • I spent 2 years carefully crafting a phonics book that includes phonics through 2nd grade.  Every word that could possibly be relevant to a cognitive skills test and can be sounded out.  The last shred of expectation were crushed out when it took 3 weeks to get past CAT.
  • We jumped into 2nd grade math midway through K.  3 weeks again to get through the first page.
  • I've got 6 or 7 other plans that I presented on this website in the last 7 years.
Of course, a little here and a little there paid off.  Within 4 or 5 months, the little ones were zooming along adequately.   The bar raised itself.

The new plan is to take the SAT in 7th grade.  This is where you feel bad as a parent and panic because things are so competitive and you're falling behind.  

We'll, it's not about the SAT.  I read an article this week that explains why 1600 on the SAT won't help you get into Stanford.  Stanford only accepts 4% of applicants.  I couldn't help but think a) 1600 on the SAT won't help and b) 4% is a easier to achieve than the 2/10th % that we faced for 1st grade.

The SAT plan began in 2nd grade with TPM.  If you've ever seen it, and you think 'this isn't school math' your right.  It's the base of the mountain.  School math is more of a detour through the foothills.  This doesn't mean TPM is super hard (some of it is), it's just super different.  Different will get you into Stanford, according to the article.  I started experimenting with SAT books with older kids when TPM was written.

My last insane idea was to start assigning work from an SAT test prep book after 4th grade.  Here's your SAT question:  How long will it take to get through a 600 page book if you only do 4 or 5 problems a week?  The work accelerates on it's own, by magic, just like my other insane ideas.

Back to the new new bar.  On May 7, my 13 year old will spend the morning in a high school taking a 3 1/2 college entrance exam.  What fun.  I'm not sure how he's going to do, but here's what's going to follow:
  • First, we get to see the whole test and his answers.  This is a new service by the college board.  I can't wait.  I'll be able to compare our practice to the real thing and prepare little brother appropriately.
  • Then in a few years, he'll be sitting for the PSAT, the shorter easier version of the SAT.  Will he be stressed taking a test that is easier than the one he took in 7th grade?  I don't think so.
  • But even more importantly, a few weeks later he'll sit for the Test That Won't Be Named for entrance into high school.  How can you expect a child to do well without practice?  I don't consider a test prep course practice.  You don't practice sky diving jumping off the stairs onto a mattress.  You practice sky diving jumping behind enemy lines in the dark while the plane is buffeted by flak.
I gave him his first timed test today - one 55 minute math section.  I think it was section 7.   He did awful, as usual.  I let him go 90 minutes and I think he quit after 75 minutes on his own.  (He's on to my trickery.)   Awful is a normal performance going into the test, as I have pointed out to many, many parents worried about COGAT prep.


This morning - a day after the timed math test, and the day after I published the article above - I'm assessing our situation.  I don't like timed tests and he needs to get every single answer correct no matter how long it takes for that other test.   So I'm going to do only one timed reading test and then we're going back to our normal program for that other test.  The SAT is going to an endurance exercise of concentration.   I had this idea that we will 'prepare for the test' if you know what I mean, but this doesn't really work for our plan, so instead we're just going to sit for the test and I'll find out how ready my 13 year old is for college.  In other words, he's not going to get an extra 150 points because we made a concerted effort to get an additional 150 points. 

I know kids at this age who are ready to sit for an SAT type test.  They've had the right training.  They are nearly at the peak of the mountain.  Math house is working toward a much much higher mountain and we're only at about the 40% mark right now.  It's really hard for me to be competitive and patiently hold back at the same time.

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