Friday, November 1, 2013

STAAR 2013 - 8th Grade Math Item Analysis - 24 & 28

In this series of posts, we are exploring 10 troublesome items on the 2013 April Administration of the 8th Grade Mathematics STAAR and offer strategies your students can use to successfully navigate similar problems in the future.

Even if you don't teach 8th grade, many of the strategies here are useful for solving problems in other mathematics courses. 

According to the 2013 STAAR item analysis provided by the Texas Education Agency, all 10 of the items we will explore were answered correctly by fewer than 50% of test takers in the state of Texas!

In today's post we explore items 24 and 28

51% of test takers missed this question!

61% of test takers missed this question!


  1. Here is a response to a comment made about this test on Google+ .. the comment essentially said students were not 'developmentally ready' for this test. That is too much for their 'brains' to handle... here is my reply.

    Kids in 2nd grade can do 'algebra' .. it isn't about the brains of the kids, it's about the system that doesn't teach students to 'think' but just to master 'procedures' that are meaningless and do not foster conceptual understanding.

    We are much too afraid to teach 'real' math to younger students.. perhaps that is because many teachers are afraid to learn 'real' math and instead choose to follow a script laid down by others .. and we dare not wander off the beaten path for fear we'll never make it back on the right track.

    I don't think the solution is to delay teaching complex concepts to younger students.. I think the solution is to introduce the 'big ideas' early and provide really meaningful and rich learning experiences to students of all ages so they are not only comfortable with mathematics, but actually enjoy doing it.

    Here is a research article that busts the myth that young students can't do algebra.

    It's a tough read, but if you can digest this research article, I promise you'll be astounded. I propose that the behaviors of these students would be the NORM given similar learning opportunities.

  2. I really liked your response, Susan.

    I am always deeply suspicious of arguments about education that rest on some notion of 'developmental readiness,' for a couple of reasons.

    First, the reasoning involved tends to be circular: Why did students miss these questions? Because they weren't 'developmentally ready' for the content. How do you know they weren't 'developmentally ready' content? Because they missed the questions.

    And second, 'developmental readiness' is often too big and crazy of an answer for the question at hand. Position it next to a response like, "Students may have calculated the total surface area in Item 28, forgetting that lateral surface area does not involve the base," and 'developmental readiness' appears unreasonably melodramatic.

    It's also worth pointing out that if we can infer from these results that 51% of Texas 8th graders aren't 'developmentally ready' for algebra, then 61% of them aren't 'developmentally ready' to calculate the areas of triangles and then add them together--an implication which really stretches the credibility of the developmentalist argument.

    More to the point of these posts, though, they are fascinating! I'm still poring over the numbers. Here we have stats on 284,000+ students and can get a look at the direction of their errors. That's pretty awesome.

    For Item 28, the correct answer (F) was missed by 61% of students, but it did garner the greatest percent of responses (24% chose Item G, 24% chose Item H, 12% chose Item J, and 1% did not answer). Items G and H are greater values than F, which lends a little weight to the idea that some students were calculating the entire surface area.

    Again, fascinating stuff. Thanks!