Ways Teachers Prepare Students for Standardized Math Tests without Mentioning the Words

How do we prepare students for standardized math tests ALL YEAR LONG without a heavy focus on "the test" and multiple choice questions? That's a great question and I'm ready to list many ways out for you today. As you read these ways we prepare students for standardized tests in math without a direct focus on "the test," pat yourself on the back for me! You rock!

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how teachers prepare students for standardized reading tests WITHOUT MENTIONING THE WORDS! It was inspired by a Facebook post where I asked teachers when they started prepping students for state testing. (Then, my sarcastic brain responded--"Wait, we do that all year.")

Because I believe we literally prepare our students in a million intentional ways and a million small ways that we often would not even think of directly connecting to our students' performance on state testing (well, we are smart in our ways, so maybe I mean OUTSIDERS wouldn't think of connecting the dots?). 

So, I decided to write two posts--one for reading and this one for math because we just do sooo much---to share some of the ways we teachers prepare our students for standardized testing without a HEAVY FOCUS on THE TEST. 

1) We are wise planners.

✔ We ensure that we teach all required standards.

✔ We create pacing guides that allow us to spiral back to challenging concepts later in the year AND that save room for review/test prep so that WE and STUDENTS are not stressed about not having enough time to review.

✔ We stay in tune with our pacing guide to make sure we will hit all of the priority standards before testing time.

✔ We save our more engaging concepts for the end of the year to keep students engaged while also incorporating review and test prep. For me, this means  measurement and geometry are taught 4th quarter.

2) We are advocates for our students AND we take it upon ourselves to figure out new strategies and implement what children need. 

✔ We differentiate to help raise learners who need more time to learn and to engage those who need more challenge (through projects, real-world math connections, incorporating technology, math centers, task cards, classwork, differentiated assessments and homework, and differentiated small groups).

✔ We can use technology that motivates our students and gives them instant feedback. #winwin (I've recently been using Boom Learning and love the self-checking aspect of the task cards.

3) We emphasize variety, rigor, collaboration, and problem-solving.

✔ We incorporate word problems all year with all concepts whether we feel our students are "ready" for them or not. (All of my differentiated math assessments include 3 sets of real-world themed word problems for every standard!)

✔ We provide a rigorous curriculum where we teach the basics but challenge students and help them achieve greater ability than what they will see on the test.

✔ We allow students to work together and collaborate on math thinking so that activities are in students' "zone of proximal development."

✔ We ensure that math assessments are varied and do not over-rely on multiple choice tests.

4) We encourage growth mindsets in our students.

✔ We believe that ALL STUDENTS CAN LEARN MATH and we do not buy into the myth that being good at math is a gift that some people just don't get access to--we will not put this curse on children! 

✔ We make solving really challenging problems together as a whole group or in small groups a frequent thing throughout the year. We model the process of working through something that seems impossible, getting it wrong multiple times and still sticking with it, building a perseverant and confident attitude towards math from day 1 for all students.

5) We know that math and understanding math is important for our students' success and we are growth-minded with our approach and our assessments.

✔ We create excitement towards math learning so that students WANT to learn!

✔ We know that math success is a really important indicator of career and college success, life success, and money management.

6) We familiarize students with any question types that they have not yet been exposed to prior to testing.

✔ We use resources that provide opportunities for students to answer multiple choice questions similar to the math questions on the standardized test questions. (I believe this should be done sparingly. 4th quarter works well for me, but you have to do what feels right to you).

✔ We incorporate testing language in our math problems from the beginning of the year--during whole group lessons, classwork, centers, homework, etc. #approximately, anyone?

✔ We know that a majority of our math assessments should be open-ended where students have to come up with the entire answer themselves, rather than having a year-long assessment diet that is focused on multiple-choice testing. Structuring your year-long math assessment plan with open-ended questions ensures that students are unable to mask math misconceptions and inaccuracies by accidentally choosing a correct answer. This develops students’ accuracy in math and attention to detail as they must be more careful in their work.

MOST OF ALL: We make a difference for our students--and know they are MORE than a TEST SCORE! 

We are our students' cheerleaders and support systems. We find ways to help students see their growth, whether we use personal data trackers, end of unit reflections, or simply remind students that they previously did not understand how to solve a problem, use a math skill, or perform a specific concept so that they are aware of their growth and develop the ability to believe that they WILL LEARN future concepts.

What other ways do you make sure your students are prepared for the state math test?!? Let me know! I really believe the number one thing we need to do to prepare our students for "the math test" is to ensure that we have taught the standards at a high level of mastery and rigor.

If you are looking for an assessment system that you can use all year, I'd love for you to check out my differentiated math assessments. These assessments contain three levels--below, on, and above grade level, include three versions of each assessment (so you can pre-assess, post-assess, assign extra practice/homework, or have another version to assign during stations or use in small groups), and include word problem sets for every computation standard.

Differentiated Assessments/Practice Sheet Sets

4th Grade Place Value Concepts

4th Grade Multiplication

4th Grade Division

4th Grade Fractions and Decimal Fractions

4th Grade Geometry

4th Grade Measurement

4th Grade Algebra

5th Grade Decimal Place Value

5th Grade Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide Decimals

These assessments were created to give teachers the tools to encourage students to have a growth mindset and to help you document that math growth throughout your units! Happy math teaching!