Unusual for students to have trouble switching between math and verbal?
January 18, 2017 5:09 PM   Subscribe

I've been working with middle-school students and many of them have had trouble putting in good performances on both math and verbal sections of a standardized test in one sitting. And a single student can switch between a high verbal score one sitting and then a high math score in another sitting. Curious if this is a known phenomenon with younger kids--that maybe they get stuck in a certain gear and can't modulate their efforts between very different skills and mindset needed for mathematical and verbal reasoning?
posted by Jon44 to Education (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Which one are they doing first? They might just be getting bored.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:11 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to teach standardized testing and there were some rules of thumb for students who consistently would be a lot better in one than another. This would have been later in high school though.

Much higher math - ESL student, possible someone with a reading disability
Much higher verbal - possibly innumerate, artist types

If they're going back and forth then they're probably getting tired out or possibly even hungry. Also check to make sure they scoring rubric is the same (i.e. same penalty or lack of penalty for wrong/blank answers etc). Otherwise, no it's not something I am familiar with.
posted by jessamyn at 5:39 PM on January 18, 2017

Just a data point here. I'm a middle school teacher in Florida and none of our (several, varied) standardized tests mix subjects. It's always just one subject at a time, and language is sometimes split into reading/writing or reading/language usage tests. I could definitely see it being challenging for many of my students to excel on math and language on the same test.
posted by gnutron at 6:00 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm with tchemgrrl that it's most likely fatigue, especially with younger students.
posted by augustimagination at 6:48 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would say fatigue, boredom, hunger, etc.

Can you switch up the order in which you give the Math / Verbal sections and see if kids consistently do better on the prior one?
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:53 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I teach 7th grade. The longest period of time my students are sitting, doing a single activity is twenty minutes. Even that is too long - I try for 10-15 minute chunks, with 60-90 second breaks in between each chunk.

You should think of this in terms of cognitive load - when you are at that developmental level, it's a huge cognitive load to take a test of any kind. That cognitive load increases the longer the session lasts. Reducing cognitive load can be simple - taking a walk, drawing for a few minutes, even chewing gum - but you are unlikely to get good results at the end of a multiple-hour testing session with your average 6th-8th grader unless there is some huge motivating factor involved. And in the US, that's not really a thing for middle schoolers, unless they're trying to pass an entrance test for a private school or summer program or something.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:06 PM on January 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older Philadelphia by Train   |   Spoken word section from a song in my head -... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.