A student in my intermediate algebra class suggested this improvement to my tests – Put more written instructions on it. My tests tend to be austere. For example, I might say “Simplify” followed by ten problems or more like or or and the like. The visual cues that the general appearance of these expressions are supposed to invoke were not enough for this particular student. He needed more words. As we talked, his request began to make greater and greater sense. Different people develop different memory hooks as they learn to do various algebraic procedures. My form of test instructions favored the visual learner – the one that avoids reading the instructions if possible. I will try to put more written instructions on the tests as long as they do not “give away” the problem and see how it goes.
Note. From day one I encourage my students to ask questions. I say and I really mean this, “Your questions make me a better instructor and I want to be a better instructor.” Any type of question – from Can I skip steps in a process? to Why have daily quizzes? to What good is math? are okay. Question the subject matter, the learning process or the discipline. That’s okay with me. Every time I answer a question and reflect on that answer I am improving my skills at explaining and my depth as a teacher.