The spring, especially in March, teachers in testing grades start really stressing the upcoming state testing. This year being everything it is, that state testing feels like a bigger beast in normal. The reality is, the work you do day in and day out each and every day prepares your kids for the test. You don’t need to do a ton of cramming or review just before the test. With that said, students need to feel confident and prepared. They need to know what to expect. For that reason, I always invest time in intentionally spiraling back to big concepts from early in the year (in addition to our daily spiral). And we spend time reviewing and talking about problem types and what to expect on the assessment. Here’s a look at what I use for math test prep- including those daily instructional routines.
ONLINE TEST PRACTICE
One of the ways I do invest in some math test prep is by practicing online. I want my students to be familiar with the tools available to them. I also want them to feel comfortable with specific online tools like drag and drop that they don’t get when we do paper assessments in class. Having time to explore and practice with online tools gives my students the skillset and comfort with the assessment that they need to show their content knowledge. There are two main sites I’ve used over the years:
Edcite: One of the reasons Edcite is great is you can easily login and build your class roster using Google Classroom or Clever. This also means access for your students is easy! The best part about Edcite, though, is their collections! Edcite has many state testing released items available for use by going to Assignments -> Collections. For my state, the released items from the DOE are available for teachers, but there’s not an easy way to assign them to students, or have them save or submit their work. The collection on Edcite allows me to assign the specific assignment I want my students to practice- and I can even have them submit their work to me- helping me drive further practice and instruction. Beyond just state tests, they offer collections for other standards-aligned assessments like Achieve the Core and ACT Aspire.
Edulastic: Edulastic is another great resource! It also syncs seamlessly with Google Classroom and Clever. The interface is a lot more sleek compared to Edcite. Edulastic also has extensive paid features. The downside is, what they offer for free has decreased a bit over the years. With that said, it’s so beneficial for online math practice! Students can practice representing fractions, line plots, bar graphs, and more! Paper assessments just can’t compare to the hands-on digital questions they’ll see on the assessment. Giving students practice with online question formats will give them understanding and confidence to show their content knowledge. There’s also a rich item bank you can use to build your practice. Search by standard, question type, grade level, and other filters. The item bank makes it easy to build an assessment practice or spiral review. You can also search for pre-built tests; including released items for some state tests. Ohio and Louisana are two states (among others) that have released items available in a ready to go format.
MATH STANDARDS REVIEW
While I don’t believe in spending significant amounts of time cramming, or doing “math test prep”, I do believe in being intentional with my review in class to touch on standards that we haven’t focused on in a while. Most of my math textbooks have been set up as units. This means, while there’s obviously some application within other standards, many standards do not come up again once we’re finished. I use my morning work time to build in a consistent spiraling of the standards- detailed below. But before testing, I also build in some additional review. It doesn’t define my math instruction. I interweave it during different times. Sometimes our review is changing out morning work. Sometimes it’s a quick replacement lesson. Most often, it comes during students’ independent work during our math rotations. By incorporating the review in a variety of ways, it gives me the opportunity to not impact our typical instruction. The work we do day in and day out is truly the preparation the students need!
4th Grade Math Review
One of the problem types on state testing that aren’t always practiced in traditional curriculums are part a/part b questions. A few years back I made some specific 4th grade part a/part b questions for teachers in my building. While we practice problem solving in a multitude of ways, we didn’t have enough practice with multi-part questions. You can take a closer look at my 4th Grade Math Test Prep Printables.
3rd Grade Math Review
As a third grade teacher, I loved to use Google Forms to review and check on my students’ proficiency with standards from early in the year. I have 2 versions for each standard- allowing for an assessment before and after instruction or reteaching. These are quick. Assign one per day and get an idea for anything to focus on with the class. It also gives data on who might need some individualized reteaching. Plus, there are built in reminders and test specific tips (if it says to choose two and the student only chooses one, it prompts for the second choice). I am currently working on the sets for all of 3rd grade by math domain. You can click on the covers below to take a closer look.
My morning work each day is a spiral review. I firmly believe in doing a spiral review each day in math, or at least several times a week. It keeps students fresh on concepts. It gives them continued repetitive practice. I also don’t wait to spiral things that we haven’t taught yet. This gives students an opportunity to practice applying their knowledge on their with new skills. Students get an opportunity to have a productive struggle- especially my higher-achieving students- it gives them a chance to perhaps not know something right away. I don’t grade our morning work. So, it’s okay if students aren’t successful with a part of it when they work on it independently. My students spend about 10 minutes or so working on it independently, and as a class we spend 5-10 minutes going over it. This has been critical in my students’ math achievement. You can see all of my Math Spiral Reviews in my TpT store. I have options for 1st through 3rd grades. I’ve linked the 3rd Grade Math Spiral Review below.
Last spring I also released a set of Free Spiral Review Google Forms that are easily assigned online. You can head to that blog post to sign up to download them for free!
WORD PROBLEM OF THE DAY
We also do a Word Problem of the Day. My first time giving the state assessment, I left feeling like I failed my students. We didn’t do enough standards application AT ALL. I focused so much on the rote concepts and the few word problems given in my curriculum. I immediately started doing a word problem of the day and continued every year after- 1st through 3rd grades. Too often, students only see a specific operation in the context of that specific unit. This means that students “know” the operation they’re expected to perform in a problem in many cases. Students may not understand why an operation is represented in a problem. They also aren’t given opportunities to solidify their practice as they build on and master the standards if it’s never coming back around. Plus, so much of the standards relate to each other. Fractions are division. Area is multiplication, and can be used to represent the distributive property, and also of course connects to addition. By continuing to cycle through word problems throughout the year, I can continue to help my students build these connections to help them understand how our math concepts are related. I have Word Problem of the Day bundles for 1-3rd grades. I also have most of 4th grade complete. Even if it’s not the beginning of the year, you can start incorporating a Problem of the Day now to give your kids daily, spiraled practice with story problems.
Most of my work to prepare for state testing is what we do day in and day out in the classroom. Our everyday instructional practices are key to their success. But, we also do some intentional math test prep and review so students are comfortable and confident leading into testing. I hope this post has given you some ideas and resources you can use to help set your students up for success!