No rectangular solids on the new test? Now what?!

In my very first session yesterday about using fruit to teach math for the new GED Test, educators got their hands on the 2014 Mathematics Formula Sheet. In discussing the sheet I said “cake” was a food example of a rectangular prism, but it is a rectangular solid! The formula for surface area and volume of a rectangular solid are not on the 2014 Mathematics Formula Sheet!!

This was a later point of discussion because most of the formulas for two dimensional objects that are not on the new formula sheet, but are on the current sheet: area and volume of a square, triangle, circle, etc. These are pre-requisites for understanding and using three dimensional figures and formulas. There was some debate over whether or not students will now have to memorize the formulas for two dimensional objects in preparation for the new test.

I don’t think I explained myself well, but my understanding is that the new test will no longer have some of the types of two-dimensional questions with which we have become very familiar. GED Test Takers will likely be given different information for test items than what we have been used to giving them in order to solve equations. One participant said to me, “This had been a classic GED Test question forever: ‘How much carpet do you need for a room with these dimensions?’ I can’t imagine that won’t be on the new test.”

I understand and sympathize with the emotion behind this question. At the same time, just because it has been on the test forever is no reason it will be on the 2014 test. Having looked closely at the new assessment targets, and the comparison with the 2002 series, we will:

1) have to teach or emphasize new and more challenging information like 3D objects, AND

2) cut out of our curriculum some strategies and content which we have been teaching “forever.”

In math we will no longer see items about estimation, measurement, converting fractions to decimals and back, and more in a short but important comparison chart of changes that educators can explore in full in the Assessment Guide for Educators from GED Testing Service. This poses an important question: Just because a skill will no longer be assessed on the 2014 GED Test, do we stop teaching it?

Personally, I plan to make some adjustments, but there are also some things (like measuring with a ruler) which I think 1) help my students have a deeper and more concrete understanding of the content, and 2) they need to use for other workforce or lifestyle goals. Over the years, I have had a fair number of students who are preparing for carpentry or other union training programs and brought in the practice extrance exams to study. The tests are full of manipulations of two-dimensional objects and spatial reasoning. So I will still teach this content for them, but it might be optional or not empahsized in the same way.

A new approach and significant adjustments will also be critical in teaching writing. My first night in Appleton, Wisconsin, an excellent instructor who has had great success with an alternative diploma program for Native American students was explaining how she teaches a 5 paragraph essay: the inverted triangle to represent the introduction from general to specific, the three boxes for the supporting details, and the triangle for the conclusion that moves from specific back to general. This is how I learned to write essays and how I have taught my students for the past nine years!

But no longer. I have decided this may not be the best strategy to teach the new extended response writing. While organization is a small part, the main thrust of this new type of writing is supporting one’s argument with evidence from the texts provided. Forcing my students to explain their reasoning is now the central part of my writing lessons.

The 2014 series is a genuine rehaul of the test, and there are many things we have been teaching “forever” that just won’t be there on the new test. How do you plan to adjust to these new changes? Will you still teach some items, or cut them, or add content to your curriculum in response to the 2014 GED Test? I look forward to hearing your ideas!