"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Friday, June 04, 2010


I'm taking Sociology of Education this summer. We university types just call it sosh-uv-ed though.

So in my soshuved class last night we were talking about standardized testing. Stop yawning, this will get interesting. One of the concerns with standardized testing is that teachers might just "teach to the test" - meaning they only teach what will be on the test, not knowledge in general.

"For example," my prof said, "Imagine if a 5th grade teacher knows that irregular polynomials have never been on the standardized test, only regular polynomials. So the teacher decides not to teach irregular polynomials at all, only regular polynomials."

And then she posed this earnest and sincere question. "Don't our students deserve to know about all polynomials, both regular and irregular?"


I did not feel that was the time to raise my hand and ask what in the HECK a polynomial was, and if eating more fibre was the difference between a regular and an irregular one.

So I drifted. In my mind, I changed the spelling to poly-gnomials, which of course is the proliferation of garden gnomes on one's neighbour's property. (As I am not a fan of garden gnomes, they aren't allowed on my property.) Regular poly-gnomials of course have little beards and hats, and look friendly, if out of place. Irregular ones are missing a foot, but the property owner got a real deal, so they're camouflaging the missing appendage with a mini rose bush.

While I drifted, the prof paused again.

"To be honest," she said, "I'm not sure what polynomials would be used for in real life anyway...."


That's a relief. You know, since I'm living a mostly real life, and was wondering if I was in trouble.


Kelly said...


you wouldn't believe how fast i scrolled to the bottom of the page. NOPE ... i don't use 'em in my regular or irregular life.

Patti said...

see, i knew, I KNEW that if i blogged this, someone would immediately educate me.


Janer said...

Good grief! Why would the teacher even use them as an example?

I don't think you could technically be called a child if you're taking calculus.

On the other hand, I now have a vision of your gimpy irregular polygnome with his mini rose bush.

That G guy said...

What's your address so I can drop off some garden gnomes

Patti said...


Anonymous said...

I have very strong feelings against standardized testing!! Sorry but loved the garden gnomes, I am actually married to a travelling gnome!!

Sheepdog said...

.... wondering if we have anyone nearby who is artistic enough and willing.... I'm thinking that instead of a gnome a miniature statue that looks just like Spike might add some extra character to your yard (not that your yard NEEDS that of course). The spikes could double as a pigeon deterrent (or perhaps a weapon) and the little statue could be holding a removable guitar that could double as a fly swatter.

Okay - sorry - it's late at night and the picture just popped into my head and the social inhibitors in my brain that function while I'm awake are sleeping at the moment which is leading me to ramble nonsensically on your blog.

- didn't even bother looking up polynomials. That was a weird example, wasn't it. I wonder if your teacher was trying to show off somehow.

As for "real life", well my favorite teachers are real people.

Patti, some of us are still hoping you'll write a book. You are good with words.

chRistine said...

I was all excited, I thought this would be a debate on "teaching to the test" which I have very strong opinions about.

I also have strong opinions about garden gnomes.

Excellent post.

vjc said...

Your "gnomials" theory makes a lot more sense that what I learned at school!!

jarod said...

Engineers use them all the time. There are some really simple calculator applications that make them a cinch.

I will find a way that each of us use polynomials in everyday life...and it will amaze everyone of you........or bore you half to death.

Patti said...

jarod, are you offering to guest-blog? maybe i'll take a poll...

jarod said...


.....for the record the secret word I had to type was distrucr...and I thought that was awesome.....as in...distrucr is going down the highway..

Patti said...

wouldn't that be DA highway??


jarod said...

...yes....yes I suppose it would.