The essay test on the conics certainly generates lots of student comments on the journal
topic, "Are you learning mathematics? Compare this method of evaluation with a more
traditional test". What follows are the excerpts from the students' writings. I paraphrase some and quote others.
Many students mention how they enjoyed this activity. "Its a new experience", "a
great change of pace". "Its fun to draw the graphs on the computer and see the effects
of changing the equation."
Almost all the students agree that writing about their conic helps them understand
the relationships inherent between the equation and the graph. "Using your own words
forces you to think". "To explain something takes a decent understanding of what's
going on". "Writing in math class is a good way to use math and english skills".
One student writes, "Essay testing doesn't rely on all the things you didn't know,
but on what you did learn."
However, many students voice the concern that they didn't
have enough repetition to feel they could work problems from this chapter. Some
question, "Can I really work this problems? How will these problems appear on the final?"
Another student states, "I learned more about the computer than the mathematics
of the conic sections."
From observing the level of concentration and seeing the final products I feel good
about having tried this assessment strategy. The time spent learning the word processor
will be put to use in the coming chapter on exponential and logarithmic functions.
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