WitCH 121: Not Swimming, Drowning

As regular readers would be aware, I’ve started pondering NAPLAN again. Reluctantly. Ten years ago I spent a lot of time hammering the NAPLAN tests, which were faux-secret and were appalling. I then happily forgot about it, to concentrate upon other crusades. But, as I posted recently, it was suggested by someone that the tests had improved. Maybe. But that post also triggered comments and emails, suggesting there were renewed concerns and new concerns. So, since no one else does this, I’ll look.

ACARA has published the test papers from its inception in 2008 to 2016: see here and here. But of course I want to see the most recent stuff and, anyway, I want to see whatever ACARA doesn’t want people to see. So, I’ve been quietly hunting for the 2017-2021 papers. I also intend to take a very close look at 2022 and 2023, if I am able.

So far I have looked with some care at only one recent NAPLAN paper: 2018 Year 9. In brief, the mathematics in this test seems significantly better than in tests a decade ago: the test includes some genuinely good questions. The questions also generally seem less clunky, with better wording. But not close to universally. It’d be really nice if ACARA, and everyone, gave up on “equivalent” to refer to equal quantities. And more systemically, NAPLAN is still a numeracy test, and all that that entails: there is way too much calculator, and almost every question is cloaked in real-world flubb, seldom needed and too often contrived beyond all sense. In the next couple of weeks I intend to WitCH-hammer a number of these questions. (04/02/23 Looking a little more closely at the 2018 test, I’m less enamoured, although I was never that enamoured. After the WitCHfest, I’ll be writing generally about the recent NAPLAN tests.)

The following question is from the 2018 Year 9 Test, calculator part, and was brought to my attention by Simon the Likeable. Go for it.

18 Replies to “WitCH 121: Not Swimming, Drowning”

  1. Unless the swimmers are first randomly assigned to a coach, the question doesn’t make much sense.

  2. A strange situation. Either Henry doesn’t know who their coach is, or every swimmer is randomly assigned a coach before selections are made.

  3. I agree with RF and BiB. Questions like this give probability a bad name. A more straightforward question could test the same concepts.

      1. I wonder what the AMT thought of it. Undoubtedly the AMT would have afForded itself as a matter of iNate principal to make a big fuss over the obvious offensive and divisive undertones.

        They should have stuck with balls and jugs.

        1. The Ford joke is better omitted, but I’ll leave it.

          But what does this have to do with AMT? That all three are male? Maybe it’s Morgan Fairchild.

          You’re straining too much to have a go at AMT. But, since we’re here, I note the 2018 exam has a question that refers to “boys” and “girls” making up a club. I haven’t checked any later tests.

          1. All I can say is …. I wish!

            (Thanks a lot for rekindling a childhood crush.
            I actually was aware that Morgan is gender neutral.)

  4. The tree diagram is not necessary to solve the question. Using the tree diagram to find P(Adam and Relay) + P(Morgan and Relay) gives you the same as P(Relay).

    And why decimal answers?

    1. I agree that the tree diagram is unnecessary, but perhaps it gives an insight into what the question setter was thinking (perhaps IF is a better word than WHAT).

      As to the decimal v fraction matter. Wow. Just wow.

      They are not even testing numeracy any more (I’m still not entirely sure what a test of numeracy would actually look like though, as opposed to a test of arithmetic).

      1. I assume that the purpose of the question was to assess whether the candidate understood how to use tree diagrams when solving problems on probability.

      2. Sure, it is a way to convey the situation but it also leads students down the garden path of doing some calculations that aren’t necessary. I could see the question used in class as a discussion point about how to approach probability questions (e.g. what is relevant).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here