Additional Math Pages & Resources

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How much of what you know do you show?

Yesterday I wrote about how we all know much more than we can possibly share (or be tested on).

Today I'd like to ask - How much of what you know do you show? 

To what extent is the world aware of your mental prowess? Or to put it another way, do you Play dumb?

I want to distinguish this from the Sorry, I didn't hear you ask the question... ploy that we use with our moms or wives or husbands. Instead the Dumb technique is used when you don't want to get engaged in a subject, or you don't have any interest in learning something, so you just put on your  I Don't Get It and I Don't Want To Get It face.

We  know kids do this in the classroom. What's 2 + 2 =  you ask?  I dunno is the reply.

Are they not listening? Not thinking? Not caring? Not on the same astral plane?

Feigning ignorance is an effective tactic! says one article I read.

Another goes on: Let's face it, sometimes we just want to be lazy ... the easiest way to avoid responsibility is to pretend we are not as smart as we really are. People will be loathe to give you jobs to do, and won't be as mad if you make a mistake.

OK, I suppose it could be useful now and then - assume we all do a bit of this on rare occasions. It's a way to ease through a few tough spots in life. Not a responsible way, but an optional path. However, I am interested in the implications when it comes to math.

Do we say I don't get it when what we really mean is I don't feel like thinking hard today?

Would the IRS tolerate it if we said I don't think I really want to fill out my 1040 this year. It's too tiring.  I think we would quickly decide the penalties for playing dumb are too severe.

The dumb and dumber attitude goes beyond the classroom and extends to the testing room. In many states, students are asked to take standardized achievement tests at the end of the year. If they do well, (1) they get some useful credit in their personal account in life, (2) it helps generate a good reputation for the school and (3) there's a bonus of satisfaction for their teachers. 

Or so we are told. It's easy to make an argument that tests are just part of a giant churning mill that does no good for anyone except the companies who charge for writing and scoring them. But still - we are seeing more students blow off these tests, by not showing up at all, going through the motions and checking random answers, or actively boycotting the tests entirely.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't the case for the majority of students. Or is it? I dunno, it's too much work to find out the actual answer ...

I learned today when I searched for "refuse to take test", I got a list of stories about celebrities refusing to take breath tests for driving under the influence. If you want to read the 28-page NHTSA report to Congress on the issue, click here.  If you just want some easy math facts, read on:
  • In 41 states, you have the choice of taking the test, or losing your license for one year.
  • The average refusal rate is 22%
  • In a 3-metro-area sample, refusals resulted in longer rather than shorter sentences
  • California and Nevada allow police officers to draw your blood without a search warrant if you refuse the breath test. Refusals in California are only 6% ...
Let's hope this is one test NONE of us has to take.