Monday, October 15, 2012

Are you motivated by your test scores?

In preparation for the AMC-8 exam coming up on November 13th, I took a look at the statistics from last year's contest. One thing that is striking is that, although this contest attracts some of the highest achieving middle school students in the country, the average score on the exam is less than 40%. 
That's right - on this 25 question, multiple choice contest, where wrong answers are not penalized, the average number of questions answered correctly is about 10 for eighth graders, and less for younger students. Even the average highest score per school seems low - about 18 points out of 25, or 72%.
Given that, I'm a little worried about some students - those who are motivated by their test scores, who might feel bad that although they ace every test in their math class at school, they will see their grade score suddenly plunge on the AMC-8.
But for those students who are motivated by learning, who take pleasure in math for math's sake, I suspect that the AMC-8 experience will be exhilarating. They'll get to face the challenge of math problems that they don't know how to solve, and will walk away having learned something new.
The AMC-8 exam may indeed be a humbling experience for both groups of students. But I fear that for those students motivated by their score rather than by learning, this may end up being humiliating as well, because they measure their self-worth in a bad way - by how well they "do" instead of how much they learn.
Good luck to all the students taking the AMC-8 at Bard on November 13th! Come visit our AMC-8 page for some links that will help you prepare, and learn some math along the way.

-Japheth