Playing the Game in Job Interviews and Math Class

They want you to show your work, but you don't need to. They want you to do the problem a certain way, but you know a better way. Well, it doesn't matter because sometimes you just gotta play the game. ~BonI’ve been in education for over 20 years. I’ve learned to play the “get the job” game and gotten pretty good at it.

If you’re a teacher or professor, you know the game I’m talking about: there’s the “demo teach” element of the interview process. You have a handful of other math teachers “learning” how to solve a system of equations (or some other math topic replete with pitfalls for the inexperienced) based on your mini-lecture for them.

At some point, you stop getting annoyed at the demo teach and start thinking how it can show other math teachers a different way of teaching.

Changing the Game

As I mentioned previously, I’m making a transition from math teaching to math using. I’m going to be a software developer when I grow up.

But as a mid-life wife, mom and expected half-loaf bread-winner, I can’t just stop to learn. So I’ve been applying and trying to find work in my new field of coding.

And this is a whole new game!


I sent my resume to a local (but pretty big) software company and was sent a “test” to do. It had four exercises, all related to HTML, CSS and JavaScript (my newest tools). I knew very little about any of the tasks, but I researched like a mad fool and ended up making all of them work to some degree. I made sure the commenting included my personality, in hopes that would get me a few more points.

Apparently I did okay, because I was then offered a phone interview. #woohoo

And that’s where things got weird.

…then more testing!

I was very excited, but the interview was two weeks away. I could hardly contain myself. So I researched the company. I found and read all about the people who would be interviewing me. And I was all ready with my own questions.

Then the phone rang – finally!

He introduced himself and his colleague briefly and then said, “This is a technical survey so let’s get started.”


What happened to “tell us about yourself…?” Or even, “here’s a bit about the position…?”

It was a rapid fire of JavaScript questions (check out these 85 to get an idea of what I’m talking about).

I had been warned about technical interviews. But I thought they would be a small intermingling of some “puzzle” type questions. Things to check on logic and reasoning and to see how you think.

I never expected a barrage of fact-based questions.

So I can memorize the questions?

I asked my coding bootcamp teacher about it that evening: “So I could be an idiot but memorize all the answers and get the job. But if I’m a good thinker, can learn fast, but don’t have the right answers, they won’t hire me?”

His only response was, “Yup.”


Coding and Bloom’s Taxonomy

The phone interview was a test at the lowest level on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The “take home” assessment exercises were at least at the application level. For me, most where at the synthesize level, since I wan’t familiar with them and had to learn while I worked.

I’m a bit worried that they think I cheated. Cheating isn’t beyond me, but this isn’t one of those times. Especially because it was such a good learning opportunity.

But there’s not much I can do about it now. I have to learn from the experience and be differently prepared next time.

How this relates to math learning…

So here we are again at the end of a post on and you’re wondering, “What’s this got to do with math learning?”

It’s annoying, but the reality is that you have to “play the game” – in job interviews as well as math class.

If a teacher requires you to show your work, you gotta show it. If you haven’t a clue what to show, then fake it.

If you know what’s going on and can’t play by the rules (regardless of how dumb you think they are), you won’t make the grade.

Grades aren’t everything. Heck, grades aren’t anything, when it comes down to it. But that’s how a lot of people measure things.

And that’s how this company measures ability to develop software.

Pout a bit, get over it and move on…

I may pout for a while. But I’m going to put on my big-girl pants and go memorize those answers.

Just like you or your students are going to get out that paper and start doing the 50 math problems that are all the same.

Because sometimes to show your worth, you gotta just play by their rules.


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