“The graph below was created by an employee at a gas station.“
No, it wasn’t.This problem from the January, 2016 Common Core Algebra Regents exam is just the latest in a long list of examples of absurdly contrived contexts on high-stakes exams. There seems to be a school of thought that believes we should go to great lengths to humanize test questions; I honestly can’t imagine why.
Not only does this fabricated context add nothing of value of this problem, it sends the message to students that applications of math are pointless and nonsensical. And as I argue in my talk g = 4, and Other Lies the Test Told Me, I fear that these messages add up over time.
Yet we know at least one good thing that came from this absurd test question: statistician Thomas Lumley was creatively inspired by this graph to imagine an amusing back-story! You can read it at his blog.
And you can find more of my critiques of New York State mathematics exams here.