February 4, 2013

New Blog / PreCalc Midterm Analysis

The new blog I mentioned last week is live!  My goal for Productive Struggle is to get people thinking deeply about lessons or assignments that go awry.  I would love to see it become a place for conversations that push each of us to examine the decisions we make and offer our expertise (we are professionals, after all).  However, none of us is perfect.  To turn our failures into successes, we need to work together, ask good questions and share resources; the same work we do with our students.  I hope you will participate in the hard practice and subscribe.

Last week I attended a meeting on data analysis.  It motivated me to do some deeper analysis of my midterms.  I'm putting the overview here and the detailed parsing of problems on the new blog. We had scantron to tally and sort and make charts for geometry. For PreCalc I had the kids do the grunt work! I asked each student to go through their exam and list every question they got full credit on. From this list, they determined what topics they were good at. Then they did the same thing for the problems they earned no points on (ignoring problems with partial credit). Here are the compiled results:

Most students listed as a strength:
Circles (arc length, area of sector)
Radians (coterminal, converting to/from degrees)
Basic Trig (right triangle, unit circle)
Laws of sines and cosines
Area of triangles

Near even split between strength and weakness columns:
Graphing (several students split drawing the graph from writing an equation from a graph. Writing an equation was harder - post on this coming soon)
Inverse functions (not trig)

Most students listed as a weakness:
Inverse trig (no calculator)
Identities (several students specified PROOF).

I also analyzed the spread of the test. Five topics (circles, radians, area, inverse functions and identities) had two questions each. There were three problems on basic trig while the remaining three topics (graphing, inverse trig and laws) had four questions. Luckily the topics with extra questions are somewhat balanced between topics students did well with and topics they struggled with. The test as a whole was too long so I think next year we will aim for two questions per topic.

I hope you head over to Productive Struggle to help me sort through the questions students really struggled with.  I always have doubts whether the problem was written poorly or if the students truly didn't understand.  Your opinion would be greatly appreciated!

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