The New SAT Math sections

Hand writing algebra equationsIn my last post, I explained some of the changes that the College Board will make to the verbal sections of the exam.  The math sections will also differ from the current version of the test.  These will be more than cosmetic changes; students should realize that they will not be allowed to use a calculator on at least one portion of the math.

The current test contains 54 questions to be completed in 70 minutes. The new exam will have 57 questions and a time allotment of 80 minutes.  The College Board’s document, Test Specification for the Redesigned SAT,  explains the goals for the new test:  ”The overall aim of the SAT Math Test is to assess students’ fluency with, understanding of, and ability to apply the mathematical concepts, skills, and practices that are most strongly prerequisite for and useful across a range of college majors and careers. . . it will reward a much stronger command of fewer, more important topics.”   Thus, although the number of questions will not increase substantially, the level of difficulty will, because the emphasis will be on application of concepts. The test specifications propose that “The redesigned SAT calls for sustained attention on a core of concepts, skills, and understandings rather than a futile race through a vast array of math soon forgotten.”

One of the core concepts for the math sections is “the heart of algebra.”  College Board has included some sample questions that suggest that the level of difficulty will exceed that of the present test, especially for those students who rely heavily on calculators.  One example such a question appears below;

If 1/2 x + 1/3 y = 4, what is the value of 3x + 2y?

content: Heart of Algebra
answer: 24
calculator usage: No calculator

The research that the College Board has conducted indicates that studenst must be capable of application of concepts  for higher education and the workforce. These are commendable goals.  Do current math objectives  emphasize  student  mastery of the application of concepts in a calculator-free environment?  Some “reform” math programs introduce calculator use in the early primary grades.  How will these standards parallel the expectations of the new SAT?


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