Around a half day into "distance learning," the dropout rate is high—fifty percent, if you must know the exact statistic. In the admittedly unlikely event that you are looking to while away some quarantine time by contemplating a few 6th-grade math problems, the student who has not dropped out is working on the above four. Notice—what I do not necessarily like, but it's how it is—that there's no effort even to pretend that we are not here just coaching kids to perform satisfactorily on a standardized test. The problems aren't dumb problems, but they are exactly the kind that get asked on the standardized test to determine whether a 6th-grader "meets the standard," "exceeds the standard," etc. "You have to know this stuff because our school will look bad if you don't!" If it's math, but not on the "big test" all 6th graders take . . . some other day. It seems there's something to be said for having an agile mind—bringing to bear what you know on a new or unfamiliar kind of problem. But the idea here is to make sure there won't be any unfamiliar problems on Test Day.

Whatevs, I'm a "school nerd," as the little wenches around here keep reminding me.

Actually, the first question, demonstrating mere "emerging understanding," is an example of what I'm talking about. I guess it's considered the easiest and most basic because you are supplied with the formula for the area of a trapezoid. All you have to do is put the right numbers from the figure into the formula and then do the arithmetic correctly. But supposing, I asked my marginally interested daughter, you were not given the formula and had forgotten what it was? No need to panic. Think of the figure as a 10.2 x 12 rectangle with a 5 x 12 x 13 right triangle sitting atop it. So it's (area of rectangle) + (area of right triangle) = (10.2)(12) + (6)(5) = 122.4 + 30 = 152.4 sq cm. I thought it might make an impression on her when you arrive at the same answer my way as she had when plugging numbers into the formula, but it didn't. Whatevs.

Whatevs is the word for day 1 of distance learning.

To me, the question to prove you're "proficient" doesn't seem any harder than the ones for "emerging proficiency" and "partial proficiency." But the last one, to exceed the standard, is definitely the hardest, no? The idea is that a triangular prism has been cut and laid out flat, which makes it arguably easier to work out the surface area: the sum of the areas of three rectangles and two triangles. We're also supposed to figure out the volume, however. My 6th-grader tries to remember all the formulas she thinks she needs to know. Seems better just to remember that, in all these solids, the volume is given by the product of the area of a face and the length of the lines connecting it to it to its "partner" on the other side. So, for example, the volume of a Campbell's soup can (aka a "right circular cylinder") is the product of its height and the area of either circular end. In this case, the identical triangles, with areas of 6 sq cm, would be connected in the reconstituted prism by the 3 cm edges of the center square in the flat net. The volume of the prism must therefore be 18 cubic centimeters? Unless Homeschool Dad cannot himself exceed the 6th-grade standard.

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