Can you answer this sample question from the newly redesigned SAT?

Can you answer this math question from a practice test for the SAT?

SAT study blogs recommend spending only about 75 seconds on each math problem, so you should set a timer.

Ready?


Here it is:

A typical image taken of the surface of Mars by a camera is 11.2 gigabits in size. A tracking station on Earth can receive data from the spacecraft at a data rate of 3 megabits per second for a maximum of 11 hours each day. If 1 gigabit equals 1,024 megabits, what is the maximum number of typical images that the tracking station could receive from the camera each day?

A) 3
B) 10
C) 56
D) 144




*You can find the answer at the bottom of this story.

Keep in mind that the numeric details here are presented in an intentionally confusing order, from which multiple equations must be extrapolated before any math can actually be done.

Give up? Timer run out? Or hey, maybe you answered it without even blinking (no judgements here ... nerd).

That question comes from the newly redesigned SAT, which will roll out in March 2016.

Millions of juniors and seniors in high school take the SAT every year with the palm-sweating hope they'll do well enough on it to at least get into their safety school. The test is, traditionally, the final word on your intelligence and scholastic acumen before you go off to college.


The second worst aisle in the book store. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Of course, there's no shortage of strongly worded arguments to the contrary, and the SAT, which was designed in the 1920s, has long been criticized for being outdated and unfair to groups such as minorities and lower-income students.

"The only persistent statistical result from the SAT is the correlation between high income and high test scores," Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, told Time magazine in 2014.

But in an apparent attempt to address the criticism that students from high-income families perform better on the SAT, the College Board might have actually made the SAT even worse.

The College Board, which makes the SAT, has updated the test to be "more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education" and to more accurately reflect what students are actually learning in high school as well as what they need to succeed in college.

"College success skills?" Former College Board president Gaston Caperton in 2002. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The SAT was also redesigned to more effectively compete with its competitor, the ACT, which has been gaining more market share since at least 2008.

With the SAT redesign comes a new set of problems.

And I'm not just talking about math problems.

Simply put, the new SAT test is wordier. There are longer and harder reading passages as well as more words in the math problems.

Experts are saying that those changes put immigrants and lower-income students at an even greater disadvantage since they might not have as much access to English-language reading as other students.


Carol McMullen-Pettit, a premier tutor at The Princeton Review, with a student in 2014. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The College Board is countering those criticisms, of course, saying that the new SAT test contains the same amount of words in its reading sections and that the math sections contain the same percentage of word problems as before (about 30%).

Outside analysts are alleging that the way words are used on the updated SAT is what makes all the difference.

Short sentence-completion questions, for example, have been swapped out for long reading passages from prose-heavy texts like "Ethan Frome" and "Moby-Dick" or political thought pieces like John Locke's "Consent of the Governed."

Math problems have also been wrapped in more narrative, forcing students to do a higher level of reading comprehension just to figure what equation the question is really asking about.

Another math problem that took me and two other college graduates 20 minutes to solve.

And just to be clear, the SAT is supposed to be challenging. On top of that, math word problems are meant to teach extrapolation and reading comprehension as much as algebra.

However, if we want a test that's even a little bit "standard," it's going to have to take into account that some students are at a disadvantage when it comes to skills like reading comprehension.

"It’s going to change who does well," said Lee Weiss, vice president of precollege programs at Kaplan Test Prep, to The New York Times. "Before, if you were a student from a family where English was not the first language, you could really excel on the math side. It may be harder in the administration of this new test to decipher that, because there is so much text on both sides of the exam."

Whether the new SAT addresses systemic disadvantages or makes them worse remains to be seen.

"We’re going to need to see how they did, which test is going to be better, how can we weigh it," Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Times.

But it's hard not to feel for the kids who are currently studying and signing up to take the SAT. For the last several years, many of them have been told that it's one of the most important ingredients in their recipe for success, but in fact, the SAT is likely on its way out.

Texas A&M University, which doesn't require SAT scores for admission. Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images.

Hundreds of colleges are now going "test optional" because the SAT is so outdated.

Advocates all the way up to the president have called on schools to reduce the time spent on standardized testing, saying that it puts students under a tremendous amount of stress while failing to make them smarter.

In fact, studies have shown that SAT and ACT are not a good measure of a student's intelligence or academic potential at all. It's pretty easy to see why a test designed shortly after World War I is at best outdated and at worst dramatically unfair.

Oh, and by the way: The answer to the Mars question from the top is B) 10.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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