Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writing New Tests

I've probably stated about a zillion times that new (Common Core) standards and new textbooks have compelled me to revamp each course I teach, rebuilding it from the bottom up.  That means all new lesson plans, all new assessments, all new modes of instruction.  I have few limitations--and necessity being the mother of invention and all, I spend quite a lot of time creating new lessons.

But I find I'm really enjoying writing new tests and quizzes.  My new philosophy of testing has led me in new directions.  I now include fewer questions on my tests/quizzes, but strive to get more information about my students' knowledge (and my own teaching) out of those questions.

And then there are the practical changes.  For one thing, I've installed and learned to use MathType.  If you're a math teacher/professor and haven't used MathType or something similar, you should.  Buy it, or have your school buy it, and work through the tutorials.  It allows you to write math problems in MS Word or similar documents, but have those math problems look like they were copied straight from a book.  Imagine being able to type in sigma notation, to type rational expressions, or to have easy access to all the Greek letters and other symbols we need!  It's very handy because, by having an assessment entirely typed, the test or quiz can easily be modified and reprinted (think make-ups or even next year).  Besides, it just looks more "professional".

I've found that I like writing tests.  Oh, they take up a lot of time, time that I don't have in abundance because of the papers I should be writing for my master's course (even as I type this!), but still I do enjoy writing them.  How fun would it be to be a test writer?  I find I'm getting very good at it.  I doubt my district would ever hire me as a "teacher on special assignment" to write math tests, but when I get burned out on teaching I think such a job would jibe quite well with my abilities and interests.

Update, 9/28/16:  I spent almost 2 solid hours today writing next Tuesday's statistics test.   I'm pleased with the outcome, but that's a long time.  Later I started on the answer key but didn't quite finish.  If I can complete the answer key in about 15 minutes, then my students should take about an hour to complete the test.


Joshua Sasmor said...

Is there a reason you choose not to use TeX? When I was on a PC, I used WinEdt as a front end for LaTeX, and now that I'm on a Mac, I use TeXshop. I had to learn TeX to write my thesis, and it stuck with me. I haven't written math in Word in over 15 years. On the down side, TeX has a hell of a learning curve...

Darren said...

Our school has had a site license for MathType forever, I've only now installed and used it. The learning curve is fairly benign.

It's not that I *choose* not to use TeX, it's just that I'd never heard of it before now :-)