The NY Times’s 8th grade math questions

Saw this tweet earlier today from Daina Taimina:

A direct link to the NYT article is here:

8th grade math questions in the NYT

I’m terrible at determining what sorts of questions will be difficult for kids, so I asked my older son (who is going into 6th grade) to talk through them. Here are his responses – the last two questions gave him a little difficulty.

(1) An algebra / arithmetic question – his solution is actually pretty clever


(2) A geometry / angle question – here he makes a little arithmetic mistake, but luckily the answer he finds after this mistake isn’t one of the choices.


(3) A question about similar triangles – this one also has a bit of arithmetic, but it all goes well.


(4) Some 3D geometry plus arithmetic with decimals. This one gives him trouble on two fronts. He uses an incorrect formula for the volume of the cone and has a bit of difficulty estimating the product (I don’t know if calculators were allowed on the exam or not, but we were just standing by the computer).

It was interesting to see the struggle estimating the product.


(5) More 3D geometry and arithmetic with decimals. Here he also had a little bit of trouble estimating the product he needed to compute. Luckily, though, the answers were far enough apart that even with that difficulty he was able to identify the likely answer.

I was surprised to see that this question – which seemed to me to be a little easier than the previous one – only had a 49% correct response rate compared to 70% on the question with the cone. Interestingly, right at this moment, those numbers are almost exactly reversed in the reader answers.



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