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Math Dept. offers interactive AP exam session

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From the UDaily Article.

On the afternoon of May 12, students all over the world will take the Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics Exam, seeking to earn early credits in college courses.

A group of 110 students from 16 private and public high schools in Delaware and Maryland had extra preparation for the rigorous test thanks to an interactive practice exam session offered in Smith Hall by the University of Delaware Department of Mathematical Sciences on Saturday, April 30.

The daylong event, in its third year, offered students a chance not only to take a timed practice exam but also to receive feedback on their answers. 

In contrast to the real exam setting, students began with the free-response portion of the test, which included inference, probability and task investigation questions. The sample test was set up this way so that teachers, who also signed up to participate, could practice grading the free-response questions while students took the sample multiple choice section of the test.

“We had a little grading party,” Bryan Crissinger, an instructor in mathematical sciences and the coordinator for the event, said. “We trained the teachers using the same free-response rubric that AP exam graders use.”

He explained that this is valuable for teachers because it not only offered them insight in how to prepare their students for the exam but also enabled them to see how their peers graded.

“Teachers worked together and unlike the real exam, they got to comment on the students’ papers,” Crissinger said. 

Once the students finished both portions of the exam, they got their papers back along with an answer key and information on how to estimate their free-response score. Students and teachers then had lunch together in the Trabant University Center. The afternoon was spent in a debriefing session where the teachers reviewed the answers and talked about common errors they saw when grading the exams. 

The day was designed to benefit both students who attended and future students whose teachers participated.

“My students came back very excited about taking the practice exam,” said Mimi Payne, who teaches the AP Statistics course at the Charter School of Wilmington. “They seemed to have a renewed confidence in the material after the experience. I especially enjoyed working with other AP Stat teachers from the area — we had great content and process discussions.”

The sample exam was based on previous years’ exams; its creation is spearheaded by Christy Brown, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University. Questions were written by faculty members, including Crissinger, from 11 high schools and universities around the United States.

Students who score well on the AP exam can earn college credit, but according to Crissinger that’s not its only value. 

“This gives students a feel for statistics being something they’d like to pursue. It’s a real-world taste of how to play with data,” he said. “Data science is now all the rage, and AP Statistics offers an entry into studying a STEM discipline as an alternative to calculus.”

The event, which was free of charge for participants, was funded by the Department of Mathematical Sciences and by a grant from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Delaware Difference Development Incentive program. The number of students taking part at UD has more than tripled since the program started in 2013.

Article by Mara Gorman

Photos by Doug Baker

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