I thought it might be fun to try something new with the “Question of the Week” feature here on the blog. Instead of asking my readers a question, I will offer up a question from the statewide examinations that New York City students take each year.
The purpose of this will not be for you to try to provide the correct answer, but rather to join me in examining the question. What does it tell us about student understanding? What do each of the wrong answers mean? What is this question testing? What is it really testing? What would students need to know and be able to do to answer this question correctly?
Sound like fun?
To differentiate this feature from the Question of the Week, I’ll call this the Item of the Week, which is what we call questions in the parlance of standardized testing.
Today’s item comes from the 2010 New York State Grade 4 Mathematics Exam. The strand is Measurement and the performance indicator is “4.M04 Select tools and units appropriate to the mass of the object being measured (grams and kilograms).” You can click the image for a larger view.
I like the layering of this question. First of all, the student needs to know which units measure mass and which don’t. If they answer A or D, they don’t. But to choose between B and C, students need to have some idea of how much a gram really is.
Sometimes these questions will have distractor answers that use numbers from the problem to try to trick students into choosing them. But there are no numbers in this problem. And all of the answers use the same number.
The trick here is in the first sentence. The fact that Mr. Patel moved his chair across the room is not relevant. But if you don’t know what “mass” means, that first sentence might trick you into thinking you are looking for a distance, in which case you might choose D. This assumes, of course, that you have no idea how long a kilometer is.
All in all, it seems like a pretty fair question that tests what it purports to test. In practice, it turned out to be one of the harder items for New York City students taking this exam.
As always, I invite further discussion.