The following two-part fill-in-the-number question, explained here in hopes of helping eighth-grade students and their parents in Maryland and Illinois prepare for the PARCC test near the end of this school year, appears on the released version of PARCC’s Spring 2016 test for grade eight math:
Shot put is a track-and-field event where athletes throw a heavy spherical ball. Shot put balls come in various sizes and materials.
The diameter of a brass shot put ball is 4.2 inches.
What is the volume of the brass shot put ball? Round your answer to the nearest cubic inch.
The volume of a stainless steel shot put ball is 45 cubic inches.
What is the approximate diameter of the stainless steel shot put ball? Round your answer to the nearest hundredth of an inch.
Analysis of this question and online accessibility
Fill-in-the-number questions prevent students from entering words and, in the case of Part A, may even prevent them from typing a decimal point, since an answer is requested as being rounded to the nearest whole number. The question format also prevents guessing, since no options are presented, and the student must enter a number from scratch.
In terms of Part B, an inconsistency in the Common Core standards arises. Under eighth-grade math, expressions and equations (8.EE.A.2), students are required to evaluate:
- square roots of small perfect squares
- cube roots of small perfect cubes
As a result, the demands of the geometry problem here go above and beyond the Common Core requirements in eighth-grade math. The problem therefore, in Part B, fails to align to the Common Core in eighth grade. The only way to find the diameter of the shot-put is by evaluating the cube root of a number that is not a perfect cube.
- Khan Academy videos on volumes of cones, spheres, and cylinders
- A review of geometric formula use on Purple Math
The question is accessible for students on any device they may use or on paper. However, because paper test-takers would be required to respond to a multiple-choice format for this question, validity, reliability, and fairness measures may differ among the various delivery modes. Students who don’t know how to find the volume of a sphere might be able to guess the correct answer, from the four options on a paper-based test, whereas students answering the question online won’t have those pre-formatted answers available at test time.
No special accommodation challenges can be identified with this question, so the question is considered fair.
Purpose of this series
To help eighth graders and their parents prepare for the PARCC test in math, as administered in at least six states, or to just master content on that test, we provide an analysis of every eighth-grade math problem PARCC released. The series can be found here.