Saturday, January 24, 2009

Problem Solving

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and that math teachers are the most creative, innovative people on the face of the planet (of course, it all depends who "they" are.) Just as the teachers at my high school are being reprimanded for exceeding our quota of paper for the year (as the second semester is just getting under way), a calculus teacher in California has come up with a novel, creative, and somewhat controversial way to defray the costs of printing tests at his cash-strapped school.

Tom Farber has begun selling ad space on his exams.

Farber's students can now get ideas where to get there pet groomed and cut out a coupon for a discounted oil change while demonstrating their mastery of integration techniques. For $10 a quiz or $20 a test, businesses can put a small at the bottom of the test and parents can even buy space to put a motivational quote. Can you imagine an inspirational message from Mom after problem number 6:
Dearest Phillip, I hope you get a net area under the curve of 4.635 units on problem number seven, and don't do drugs. Hugs!
or one like this
Jenny, good luck on this test. I was always so horrible at math. I hope you do better than I did. Remember that if you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough. I'm so proud of you!
or even
Have you bombed this test? Having trouble learning this stuff? Call "A-B-C Tutoring." We make Calculus as easy as 1-2-3.
I have a feeling that the students are going to be looking forward to their tests for a change. As students who come to my class enjoy reading the daily quote board (full of humorous one-liners and word puzzles) rather than doing their mathematical warm up, students will be jonesing for what ad or message awaits them. This could really end up being not only a stop-gap financial measure, but an amusing distraction as well.

For the same reason that I infrequently give bonus questions, this ad idea shouldn't be a regular, long-lasting solution to a paper-funding problem. With the prospect of bonus points pervading their every thought, I actually have students jump straight to the more difficult extra-credit problems on tests and quizzes, squandering all their time on trying to earn an additional 5 points at the expense of the not-extra 100 points on the rest of the test. Rather than try for a 100 + 0 score, they are seduced into working on the 0 + 5 route.

Now I doubt students in Mr. Farber's class are going to be captivated by the ads for the entire 50-minute period, especially since Farber has limited the ads to one per page, but like our own mindset during the Super Bowl commercials, their calculus concentration could be compromised as they think of the great deal they can get at the dentist.

All in all, I think it's a pretty resourceful idea, and I'm grateful that my paper situation atmy school isn't quite as dire as Mr. Farber's. Kudos to Mr. Farber for being an expect "problem" solver.

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Anonymous said...

I guess they need the money for the track or to pay for the Alamo field trips for the 4th graders. Who needs paper anyway, just stop giving tests and quizes. I know the kids will love it and just think of the reduction in grading time. You can give a grade based on how you feel the student would have done.

kwkorpi said...
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kwkorpi said...
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kwkorpi said...
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kwkorpi said...


Public Education sure misses you and your simple, rational, win-win solutions.


Anonymous said...

Andrew F. and I came up with a candy we're gunna market one day.

"Try the Wunder-Bars! They're Wonderful!"

or how about my line of cologne for guys "Sweaty Girl for Men"