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Math education in this country does a disservice to our

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Math education in this country does a disservice to our children. In the lower grades, it should focus on the basic skills that students will need in higher grades to develop the ability to solve complex problems. Learning basic math skills is like learning the scales and chords that one will later use to master complicated concertos and symphonies. However, math educators in this country seem to have it backward, emphasizing in higher grades the same narrow, skills- based approach that students learned in lower grades rather than the analytical tools they will need to solve complex math problems.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the conclusion drawn above?

(A) While music is common in elementary school curriculums, it is rarely taught in high school.
(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify totake advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.
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nikhil.jones.s wrote:
Math education in this country does a disservice to our children. In the lower grades, it should focus on the basic skills that students will need in higher grades to develop the ability to solve complex problems. Learning basic math skills is like learning the scales and chords that one will later use to master complicated concertos and symphonies. However, math educators in this country seem to have it backward, emphasizing in higher grades the same narrow, skills- based approach that students learned in lower grades rather than the analytical tools they will need to solve complex math problems.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the conclusion drawn above?

(A) While music is common in elementary school curricula, it is rarely taught in high school.
(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify to take advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.

Dear nikhil.jones.s,
I'm happy to help. :-) I'm not sure that I like this question. What is the source? Among other things, the plural of "curriculum" is "curricula", not "curriculums."

Here, the conclusion is the first sentence: "Math education in this country does a disservice to our children." The rest of the argument provide evidence. We would most seriously weaken the conclusion by demonstrating that the educational system serves math students well.

(A) While music is common in elementary school curricula, it is rarely taught in high school.
Pure distractor. Music is mentioned as an analogy, but it's irrelevant to the thrust of the argument. This is incorrect.

(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
Tempting, but if the other countries are also poorly serving their math students, and everyone is at a low level together, then it could still be that the country discussed in the prompt argument does not serve its students well. This is incorrect.

(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
Of course they do. If students of all grades solve the problem the exact same way, that would really show that students were learning nothing. The fact that older students have a different approach and find different solutions could be a bad sign or it could be hopeful --- depending on whether the older students were correct more frequently than the younger students. No clear implication can be drawn. This is incorrect.

(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
This compares apples to oranges. The grades that students receive at different levels are relative to each other, to creates in other subjects at that level, etc. A direct comparison of the letter grades of two different grade levels does not make any sense. This is incorrect.

(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify to take advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.
Aha! A calculus course in college provides a kind of standard or benchmark against which you can compare different cohorts of students. If more first-year college students are qualifying for advanced calculus, that means they absolutely have to be learning some good math! Therefore, the education system is serving them well. This decisively weakens the argument.

Here's a blog on weakening the argument:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/how-to-wea ... reasoning/

Let me know if you have any further questions.
Mike :-)
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New post 26 Nov 2013, 10:41
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Agree with the OA and nice explanation by mikemcgarry.

B is a trap answer. If international tests do not test complex problem solving skills, then performance of students in this country in complex math skills cannot be compared with that of their counterparts in other countries is illogical.

Choice E avoids such confusion.

Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify to take advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.
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New post 04 Aug 2014, 19:11
I'm still going with B.

E) Sure, more people qualify, but there are so many other factors that could be at play here; what if the standards of admission have been going down in this country? What if the curriculum has been becoming simpler to bring the students up to speed?

B) Still not a perfect answer (though saying that it tests "math skills" plural implies that complex skills are tested, it is possible that complex skills are not tested), but more standardized - the odds that there is a confound applying across all countries studied is low.

This question is flawed.
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New post 20 Oct 2016, 23:22
Hi Guys ,

I thought Like this --

Math education in this country does a disservice to our children.

Negate the conclusion --

Math education in this country does not done a disservice to our children.


Reason 1-- Teachers focus in High school on skill based rather than

analytical tools.
------------------------------------------------------------------
Reason 2- In the lower grades, it should focus on the basic skills that students will

need in higher grades to develop the ability to solve complex problems.

------------------------------------------------------------------
We can reach the negated conclusion if the below part is true :

Skill based approach help to develop the ability to solve complex problems.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Which we can reword as the current system is working well . and therfore E .
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nikhil.jones.s wrote:
Math education in this country does a disservice to our children. In the lower grades, it should focus on the basic skills that students will need in higher grades to develop the ability to solve complex problems. Learning basic math skills is like learning the scales and chords that one will later use to master complicated concertos and symphonies. However, math educators in this country seem to have it backward, emphasizing in higher grades the same narrow, skills- based approach that students learned in lower grades rather than the analytical tools they will need to solve complex math problems.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the conclusion drawn above?

(A) While music is common in elementary school curriculums, it is rarely taught in high school.
(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify totake advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.


The correct answer is E. The conclusion of the argument is that "math education in this country does a disservice to our children." Why? Because math teachers emphasize "in higher grades the same narrow, skills-based approach that students learned in lower grades rather than the analytical tools they will need to solve complex math problems." In order to weaken the conclusion, we need to show that this approach has not had a negative effect on children's math skills.

Choice E states that an increasing percentage of native first-year students qualify to take advanced math courses in college. This would seem to suggest that more children are prepared for advanced math than had previously been the case, thus weakening the conclusion of the argument.
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New post 03 Feb 2017, 15:35
mikemcgarry wrote:
nikhil.jones.s wrote:
Math education in this country does a disservice to our children. In the lower grades, it should focus on the basic skills that students will need in higher grades to develop the ability to solve complex problems. Learning basic math skills is like learning the scales and chords that one will later use to master complicated concertos and symphonies. However, math educators in this country seem to have it backward, emphasizing in higher grades the same narrow, skills- based approach that students learned in lower grades rather than the analytical tools they will need to solve complex math problems.

Which of the following, if true, would most seriously weaken the conclusion drawn above?

(A) While music is common in elementary school curricula, it is rarely taught in high school.
(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify to take advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.

Dear nikhil.jones.s,
I'm happy to help. :-) I'm not sure that I like this question. What is the source? Among other things, the plural of "curriculum" is "curricula", not "curriculums."

Here, the conclusion is the first sentence: "Math education in this country does a disservice to our children." The rest of the argument provide evidence. We would most seriously weaken the conclusion by demonstrating that the educational system serves math students well.

(A) While music is common in elementary school curricula, it is rarely taught in high school.
Pure distractor. Music is mentioned as an analogy, but it's irrelevant to the thrust of the argument. This is incorrect.

(B) On international tests of math skills, high-school students in this country performed no worse than did their counterparts from countries where problem-solving is emphasized in higher grades.
Tempting, but if the other countries are also poorly serving their math students, and everyone is at a low level together, then it could still be that the country discussed in the prompt argument does not serve its students well. This is incorrect.

(C) When presented with a math problem to solve, students in higher grades are more likely to arrive at different answers than students in lowers grades are.
Of course they do. If students of all grades solve the problem the exact same way, that would really show that students were learning nothing. The fact that older students have a different approach and find different solutions could be a bad sign or it could be hopeful --- depending on whether the older students were correct more frequently than the younger students. No clear implication can be drawn. This is incorrect.

(D) Older students tend to receive higher grades in math than do younger students.
This compares apples to oranges. The grades that students receive at different levels are relative to each other, to creates in other subjects at that level, etc. A direct comparison of the letter grades of two different grade levels does not make any sense. This is incorrect.

(E) Universities in this country report a steady increase in the percentage of native first-year students who qualify to take advanced mathematics courses such as calculus.
Aha! A calculus course in college provides a kind of standard or benchmark against which you can compare different cohorts of students. If more first-year college students are qualifying for advanced calculus, that means they absolutely have to be learning some good math! Therefore, the education system is serving them well. This decisively weakens the argument.

Here's a blog on weakening the argument:
http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/how-to-wea ... reasoning/

Let me know if you have any further questions.
Mike :-)


@Mike- In Option E, the steady increase could mean a 0.5 percentage point increase every year in the past 5 years with a base of say 10 students taking those courses out of 10,000 students in the entire country. It can be any random number. Now, these 10 students might be taking help from other sources than the math faculty of the country.
Hence it is difficult to deduce that it's the work done by math faculty of the country mentioned and to discard external factors. Option E as well looks flawed to me.
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RK84 wrote:
@Mike- In Option E, the steady increase could mean a 0.5 percentage point increase every year in the past 5 years with a base of say 10 students taking those courses out of 10,000 students in the entire country. It can be any random number. Now, these 10 students might be taking help from other sources than the math faculty of the country.
Hence it is difficult to deduce that it's the work done by math faculty of the country mentioned and to discard external factors. Option E as well looks flawed to me.

Dear RK84,

My friend, I'm happy to respond. :-) You have put your finger on central issue about the GMAT CR that most students ignore.

The GMAT says: "no outside knowledge is needed" for the CR arguments. In other words, to answer this question, you shouldn't have to be an expert in the topic. It's not necessary, for example, to have read a book about math education in the USA or to have taken an education class about math skills. You don't need any of that expert knowledge. Any question that demands expert knowledge is not a true GMAT CR.

But, the deep mistake that students make is they assume that all outside knowledge is irrelevant, that the GMAT CR existed in some magically sealed fantasy world in which anything can be true. That is a profound mistake that hurts students' performance on the CR.

Think about why the GMAT asks Critical Reasoning. Folks in the business world need to hear real-world arguments all the time, and they need to be able to evaluate those arguments in context. Business people need to have a gut sense of what is sensible or practical and what is not.

It is very helpful for GMAT CR to have what I would call the "background knowledge" of a business person. What motivate people in the real world? What drives particular markets? What kinds of people are likely to be for or against a particular issue? Having a general knowledge of the ambiance of the real business world would be enormously helpful on the GMAT CR.

In this problem, technically we don't know the country, but it certainly "feels" like the USA to me (these are debates that often rage in the US). I can't think of another major economic nation that has debates about why are math skills in our country so poor. To my knowledge, that's not a debate in India, in the Far East, or in most European nations. That's part of the background knowledge you should have. Thus, the idea of only 10,000 student is not realistic. I don't know whether it's 10^5 or 10^6 or 10^7, but clearly a large number of US students take calculus. Furthermore, more people take calculus now and, in fact, more people go to college now, than did fifty years ago. That's also an important real world fact to have in mind.

Here's a very important point. When someone in business or government in the real world publicly "reports a steady increase," this means an increase big enough that other dispassionate observers would say, "yes, that's an increase." Real world institutions don't publicly announce something such as a "steady increase," if it's only dribs and drabs of increase each year, such that any observer would laugh at calling this an increase! Institutions don't like to be embarrassed, so they are exceedingly careful and conservative about the claims they put forth in the world. All of these are real-world dynamics of which you should be aware.

You see, if you treat the GMAT CR as if it's taking place in a la-la fantasy land in which any bizarre or unreasonable thing could be true, then you will get them wrong time and time again. Among other things, the GMAT CR is a tool designed to assess how grounded your thought is in the real push and pull of the modern business world.

You can see more here:
GMAT Critical Reasoning and Outside Knowledge

Does all this make sense, my friend? This is a subtle point, and many GMAT students are confused about this point. If you can master this, it will put you way ahead of so many others!!

Mike :-)
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New post 06 Feb 2017, 14:06
mikemcgarry wrote:
RK84 wrote:
@Mike- In Option E, the steady increase could mean a 0.5 percentage point increase every year in the past 5 years with a base of say 10 students taking those courses out of 10,000 students in the entire country. It can be any random number. Now, these 10 students might be taking help from other sources than the math faculty of the country.
Hence it is difficult to deduce that it's the work done by math faculty of the country mentioned and to discard external factors. Option E as well looks flawed to me.

Dear RK84,

My friend, I'm happy to respond. :-) You have put your finger on central issue about the GMAT CR that most students ignore.

The GMAT says: "no outside knowledge is needed" for the CR arguments. In other words, to answer this question, you shouldn't have to be an expert in the topic. It's not necessary, for example, to have read a book about math education in the USA or to have taken an education class about math skills. You don't need any of that expert knowledge. Any question that demands expert knowledge is not a true GMAT CR.

But, the deep mistake that students make is they assume that all outside knowledge is irrelevant, that the GMAT CR existed in some magically sealed fantasy world in which anything can be true. That is a profound mistake that hurts students' performance on the CR.

Think about why the GMAT asks Critical Reasoning. Folks in the business world need to hear real-world arguments all the time, and they need to be able to evaluate those arguments in context. Business people need to have a gut sense of what is sensible or practical and what is not.

It is very helpful for GMAT CR to have what I would call the "background knowledge" of a business person. What motivate people in the real world? What drives particular markets? What kinds of people are likely to be for or against a particular issue? Having a general knowledge of the ambiance of the real business world would be enormously helpful on the GMAT CR.

In this problem, technically we don't know the country, but it certainly "feels" like the USA to me (these are debates that often rage in the US). I can't think of another major economic nation that has debates about why are math skills in our country so poor. To my knowledge, that's not a debate in India, in the Far East, or in most European nations. That's part of the background knowledge you should have. Thus, the idea of only 10,000 student is not realistic. I don't know whether it's 10^5 or 10^6 or 10^7, but clearly a large number of US students take calculus. Furthermore, more people take calculus now and, in fact, more people go to college now, than did fifty years ago. That's also an important real world fact to have in mind.

Here's a very important point. When someone in business or government in the real world publicly "reports a steady increase," this means an increase big enough that other dispassionate observers would say, "yes, that's an increase." Real world institutions don't publicly announce something such as a "steady increase," if it's only dribs and drabs of increase each year, such that any observer would laugh at calling this an increase! Institutions don't like to be embarrassed, so they are exceedingly careful and conservative about the claims they put forth in the world. All of these are real-world dynamics of which you should be aware.

You see, if you treat the GMAT CR as if it's taking place in a la-la fantasy land in which any bizarre or unreasonable thing could be true, then you will get them wrong time and time again. Among other things, the GMAT CR is a tool designed to assess how grounded your thought is in the real push and pull of the modern business world.

You can see more here:
GMAT Critical Reasoning and Outside Knowledge

Does all this make sense, my friend? This is a subtle point, and many GMAT students are confused about this point. If you can master this, it will put you way ahead of so many others!!

Mike :-)


Thanks Mike for putting your thoughts in such a descriptive way. I did not understand the phrase "steady-increase" very well in the context of this question and your explanation has satiated my ego pretty well. Looking forward to learn more from your intellect on this wonderful forum. Appreciate your time:)
Re: Math education in this country does a disservice to our   [#permalink] 06 Feb 2017, 14:06
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