I was looking over a unit assessment test
that one of my students had taken in school,
when I was struck by one of his answer sets.
This student is in 5th grade, and we've been
working together this year to try to get him
to grade level before middle school.
The problem in question had a the outline
of a shape, and the students needed to
make at least three "distinct" observations
about the shape, as well as label the shape
or make their own drawings
to show each of their observations.
Under the shape he'd written:
His teacher had marked the first answer right,
and the second two as wrong. His answers puzzled
me. This is a part of math he is gifted in, and I
was trying to see why he'd answered what he had.
I looked closer at his shape and saw light pencil lines.
Me: "Do you see this shape as a cube? In three dimensions?"
Him:"Yaaaa." (in the tone of 'because that's what it is').
Me: (Nodding. Thinking.)
Him: "I tried to draw in the other lines, but I couldn't get
it to look right." (This was his trying to meet the second
part of the question.)
Me: "You see it like this." and I drew this:
Him: "Yes. It's a cube. That's what I wrote. But I got it wrong."
Me: "Your teacher was seeing the shape in two dimensions."
Him: "What?" (Mystified.)
Me: "Two dimensions. Not three. Can you see the shape as
a flat shape?"
Him: (He tilts his head.) "Oh. Ya. It's a hexagon. Oh. That's
what he wanted."
And this is one of the reasons testing is so hard for this
student. He just isn't processing the problems on the test
in the manner the teacher is looking for. Does he know
what a hexagon is? Yes.
Did he accurately describe the more complex shape his
brain processed? Yes.
Did he get full marks on the problem, No.
He received partial credit for the first answer, which
is true for both the two dimensional and three
So, my further quandary is this. How do I work with him
so that he knows what is being asked in his work? How
do we train his brain to spot what he's to be looking for?
It's a brilliant quandary, but frustrating when you're the
student who isn't perceiving things like the rest of the class.