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JISHOU, HUNAN — A few days ago, I wrote about an Orange County, Florida, school board member who took a version of the 2010 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for 10th graders and did very poorly on it: he only got 62% on the reading portion and completely bombed the math section.

Rick Roach, who has two master’s degrees, argues that his results suggest that the test is not really testing what students need to know and that the tests pigeonhole students unfairly.

One could also argue, as a few commenters on that post have already, that Roach’s poor reading and math skills are to blame, not the FCAT. He does admit in an email to educator Marion Brady that his math skills are rusty, but I contend that Roach and his detractors are also not considering the time factor.

For example, 10th graders have 70 minutes to answer 58 or so math questions, and 70 minutes to answer about 45 reading questions, from what I can gather from the 2006 exams available online.. That works out to an average time of 1:12 for each math question and 1:33 for each reading question. If any Floridians can correct my information, please do, because those figures don’t seem realistic.

Anyway, my challenge to people who dis Roach and refuse to criticize the test is this. Try these math questions from the 2006 FCAT for 10th graders and time yourselves. I’ll be generous: you have 2 minutes for each one. No cheating. You may use your calculators.

Question 1:
Tonja and Edward are participating in a jog-a-thon to raise money for charity. Tonja will raise $20, plus $2 for each lap she jogs. Edward will raise $30, plus $1.50 for each lap he jogs. The total amount of money each will raise can be calculated using the following expressions where n represents the number of laps run:
Tonja: 20 + 2n Edward: 30 + 1.50n
After how many laps will Tonja and Edward have raised the same amount of money?
A. 3
B. 6.5
C. 14.5
D. 20

Question 2:
Which of the following is equivalent to √50?
A. 5√2
B. 10
C. 25
D. 25√2

Question 3:
Highlands Park is located between two parallel streets: Walker Street and James Avenue. The park faces Walker Street and is bordered by two brick walls that intersect James Avenue at point C, as shown below.
geometry-prob
What is the measure of ∠ACB, the angle formed by the park’s two brick walls?
F. 96° G. 84° H. 60° I. 36°

Question 4 (last one!)
In music a certain “A note” has a frequency of 440 hertz (vibrations per second).
This is called the first harmonic. The second harmonic of that “A note” is 880 hertz, and the third harmonic is 1,320 hertz. According to this pattern, what is the frequency of the fifth harmonic?
F. 880 hertz
G. 1,760 hertz
H. 2,200 hertz
I. 2,640 hertz

If eight minutes have passed, your time is up. Put down your pencils and close your test booklets.

Here are the answers. If you got them all right, you can maybe pass 10th grade algebra. If you got none right, or you guessed, then you’re in the same boat as Roach. In that case, shut up and listen to what he says.

1. D 2. A 3. G 4. H

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