Why Only 4 Broad Areas In New SAT Math?


The College Board SAT guide introduces the aim of the new redesigned math section:

Students have fluency with, understanding of, and the ability to apply the mathematical concepts, skills, and practices that are most strongly prerequisite and central to their ability to progress through a range of college courses, career training, and career opportunities.” (College Board: Test Specifications SAT 1)

It is important to note, that the New Math SAT test has shifted to reflect the type of material you would see at an introductory college level course.

With this in mind, the new SAT defines 4 broad areas:

1) Heart of Algebra

2) Problem Solving and Data Analysis

3) Passport to Advanced Math

4) Additional Topics in Math

Each of these broad areas contains several subtopics. These subtopics will sound familiar such as: linear equations in one variable, linear functions, etc. One must understand that the basic topics are still presented but are being applied in a way that a student can potentially see in a college introductory course.

For example, a published college board questions that is categorized as “Heart of Algebra” begins with:

When a scientist dives in salt water to a depth of 9 feet below the surface, the pressure due to the atmosphere and surrounding water is 18.7 pounds per square inch.” (College Board: Teacher Implementation Guide)

As one can see with this question, it starts with a brief introduction of a broader and complex concept, in this case the effect of atmospheric pressure in different depths of saltwater. It is important to note, that it is not important to understand or have mastery of the material that is introduced, and usually the second/third statement clearly guides the student into what mathematical concept will be required, as we can see from the previous question:

As the scientist descends, the pressure increases linearly. At a depth of 14 feet, the pressure is 20.9 pounds per square inch. If the pressure increases at a constant rate as the scientist’s depth below the surface increases, which of the following linear models best describes the pressure p in pounds per square inch at a depth of d feet below the surface?” (College Board: Teacher Implementation Guide)

The student should clearly see “linearly,” this word guides the student in understanding that concepts of linear algebra will be applied to this question. The third statement states the question that asks the student to construct a linear model for this scenario.

The following subtopics are listed in the College Board Specifications for the SAT Math Section:

1) Heart of Algebra

- Linear Equations in one variable

- Linear Functions

- Linear equations in two variables

- System of two linear equations in two variables

- Linear inequalities in one or two variables

2) Problem Solving and Data Analysis

- Probability and conditional probability

- Inference from sample statistics and margin of error

- Evaluating statistical claims: observational studies and experiments

3) Passport to Advanced Math Domain

- Equivalent expressions

- Nonlinear equations in one variable and systems of equations in two variables

- Non-linear functions

4) Additional Topics in Math

- Area and Volume

- Lines, angles, and triangles

- Right triangles and trigonometry

- Circles

- Complex numbers

These subtopics can be further divided, into concepts that are learned in high school. The redesigned SAT math stresses that the questions presented will reflect strongly the demands of post secondary work. Topics 1-3 cover 90% of the new redesigned SAT Math, with the remaining 10% (6 questions) dedicated to additional topics in math. The test is structure this way because post secondary work will require a mastery of Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. While additional topics in math cover harder concepts, these topics combined with the other three will make a strong foundation for the rigors of post secondary material.

While studying for the SAT, it is important to follow this structure. As the redesigned SAT will test reasoning disconnected from the math curriculum, fluency and understanding, richer application, and multi tiered problems.

At Berkeley2Academy, we designed our courses and curriculum with this new SAT math structure. If you would like to learn about our programs you can check them out at our Summer Session classes and tutoring website. Let us help you achieve that great score!

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