I was talking to a college student I know who is currently taking linear algebra. He told me that during his take home midterm/final exams he was assigned essay questions, which surprised me quite a bit

I believe the one on the midterm had the prompt

Write a two page essay about the Jordan normal form

Is this common practice? It seems to me that it's testing a lot of skills which are not really related to what most linear algebra classes set out to teach. Does anyone know of any references which argue for this as a good examination method?

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    $\begingroup$ In the age of ChatGPT, I would say that such a vague prompt on a take home exam is a bad idea. $\endgroup$
    – Aeryk
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Asking students to "write in the discipline" is a moderately common practice (I am not sure that it is a standard practice anywhere, but there has been a push over the last 20 years, at least, to get students to write more). Essay prompts on final examinations might be a part of that. Though this prompt leaves a lot to be desired (in my opinion). Too vague, no real direction for the students, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson Hopefully you will expand that comment (elaborating on the first sentence with reference to mathematics education) into an answer! $\endgroup$
    – ryang
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @ryang It is a comment because I don't really have the time right now to do the research on WIC and WAD, nor to look up any relevant stats on the topic (it's finals week; I'm swamped). As such, I don't really have time to put a real answer together. Anyone else is free to run with what I've started. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ Even half a year ago, this would have been a good way to help prevent the cheating available through so many other sources. $\endgroup$
    – Sue VanHattum
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 23:08


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