If you have a high school student, you may have heard that the math SAT has been revised.
The New Math SAT
The new Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), traditionally given to juniors to prepare for the SAT and to qualify for National Merit scholarships, will be given this coming fall, and the new math SAT will be given in the spring of 2016.
If you plan on having your student take either of these tests in the 2015-2016 school year, you will want to know how the test has changed and what you can do to prepare for it.
Fortunately, Math-U-See has a team of developers with backgrounds as professional educators and/or homeschooling parents, each having anywhere from four to forty years of teaching experience. Our Curriculum Development team keeps abreast of the latest developments in the field of education and has been analyzing the new exam since information first became available last March. As a result, they are able to answer questions related to the new math SAT.
“Why is the test changing?”
The College Board, publisher of the SAT, points to test results over the past few years as the basis for the revision. It discovered that over half of the students who took the SAT in 2013 ended up having to take remedial courses before they could begin their college studies, and students who have to take remedial courses tend not to complete their college program.
In fact, in another study, 75% of college math professors surveyed felt that incoming freshmen were not adequately prepared for their courses. In the College Board’s opinion, “far too few students are ready to succeed in the kinds of education and training that they will need to participate effectively in an increasingly competitive economy.” Therefore, it created a new exam with a better ability to predict whether an individual student will be successful in college. (Source)
“How is this test different from the old one?”
The new math test will take a little longer (80 minutes) and contain a few more problems, but the scoring will remain the same (a scale of 200 to 800). What will be significantly different, however, is the content. About one third of the test will cover what the College Board calls the “Heart of Algebra”—the fundamental concepts and processes needed to solve algebra problems. Approximately another third will focus on data analysis, which covers concepts such as graphs, tables, mean/median/mode, ratios, rates, and proportions. The final third will cover advanced math and geometry topics, such as complex numbers, trigonometric functions, congruence, similarity, and the Pythagorean Theorem.
“What can I do to help my student prepare?”
The Math-U-See team has several recommendations:
• Because calculators are not permitted on some sections of the SAT, your student must be fluent in basic computational skills. Since Math-U-See is organized by topic, it is easy to go back to a previous level and practice problems in areas where your student might be shaky or rusty. Many high school students benefit particularly from reviewing fractions (Epsilon) and decimals (Zeta).
• Speaking of calculator use, help your student be equally comfortable working with a calculator and without one. Save the calculator for tedious computational tasks or for situations where the focus is on a more complex concept (such as generating values for a graph) and encourage brain power for more routine tasks.
• Problem solving and critical thinking are essential for success on the new math SAT. Be sure to complete all the word problems and Honors pages in your curriculum to help develop these skills. Instead of simply marking your student’s answers right or wrong, take the time to discuss how a particular solution was reached and alternate ways that a problem could be solved, using precise mathematical vocabulary (which will appear on the test).
• Data analysis will comprise about a third of the new test, and much of it will be presented in the context of other subject areas, such as science and social studies. Data analysis concepts appear predominantly in the Math-U-See Zeta course (2012 edition), which you may wish to review in preparation for testing. However, you should also take note when graphs or tables appear as your student is working in other subjects; don’t skip them, but take the time to discuss and analyze the material to make sure your student can understand and interpret the information. If you feel your student needs more practice with these skills, use magazines, newspapers, or online sites, such as the Scientific American, to find graphs and charts to be used for this purpose.
• Algebra will have a much greater weight on the new math SAT. Therefore, you should plan the sequence of your student’s courses so that both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 (and, ideally, PreCalculus) are completed before the student takes the test.
“Where can I get more information?”
The best place is directly from the source: the College Board. There you can find a detailed description of the new test, sample questions, and suggested resources.
If you have questions specific to the Math-U-See program, you can contact our knowledgeable and experienced staff. The Math-U-See development team remains committed to providing you with the highest quality program to help you in your educational endeavors.
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