Last week I tweeted a snippet from my 11 year-old son’s corrected math test, in which his answer was incorrectly marked wrong.

By that logic, I suppose 4 isn’t a factor of 12.

There were other questionable markings, and we decided to ask for clarification from the teacher.

She didn’t respond to the one above, but here’s one she did respond to. Another question on the test was, “What are the two numbers between 1 and 100 which are both squares and cubes?” His answer, “1 and 64” was marked wrong. This was her explanation:

The answer is that there is onlyonenumber between 1 and 100 which is both a square and a cube, 64. The number 1 is notbetween1 and 100.

This is insane. Take any person on the street, and ask them to choose a number between 1 and 10, and they’ll presume that 1 and 10 are included as possibilities. And the fact that the question specifically asks, “What are *the two numbers*…” would seem to clarify any doubt that could conceivably exist.

But more important is this—what is the objective of the *math* question in the first place? Is it to assess the understanding of square and cubed numbers, or is to test a child’s ability to not get tripped up by linguistic ambiguities?

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