• Testing

    Before the test:

    • Align lessons with assessments.
    • Build in review opportunities.
    • Emphasize problem-solving and test-taking strategies. 
    • Embrace a variety of question types. 
    • Avoid ambiguity when creating test questions. 

    During the test:

    • Create a positive testing environment. 
    • Clearly explain instructions. 
    • Monitor student progress. 

    After the test:

    • Provide feedback.
    • Identify areas for improvement. 
    • Use the results to adjust your instruction. 
    • Emphasize effort over grades. 

    Read more on how to implement these tips:

    Align lessons with assessments. Start by writing or taking the test yourself before teaching a new topic. This ensures your lessons and activities directly relate to the learning objectives. If using a pre-existing curriculum, complete the assessment beforehand to guide your teaching. This approach helps structure lessons that prepare students for the test. 

    Build in review opportunities. Regularly review material throughout the unit to prevent last-minute cramming. Use daily warm-ups to reinforce connections between topics and provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning. Integrate frequent, low-stakes quizzes, exit tickets, or short problem sets throughout the unit. Use the results to identify areas needing further review and to adjust instruction as necessary. 

    Emphasize problem-solving and test-taking strategies. Focus on teaching and reinforcing problem-solving strategies, encouraging students to think critically about math concepts, break down complex problems, and explore multiple solution methods. Equip students with effective test-taking strategies such as time management, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills. Teach them how to approach different types of questions, manage their time during the test, and understand the importance of the process, not just getting the right answer. 

    Embrace a variety of question types to support diverse learners and promote deeper understanding. Here are some ways to assess student understanding beyond the traditional format: 

    • Open-ended: Craft open-ended problems that challenge students to think critically, justify their solutions with clear explanations, and showcase their problem-solving strategies. 
    • Short answer: Use short answer questions to encourage students to provide concise explanations and specific details that demonstrate their grasp of key concepts. 

    • Show what you know: Support visual learners by incorporating tasks that allow students to demonstrate their understanding through graphs, diagrams, or illustrations of key mathematical concepts. 

    • Real-world applications: Bridge the gap between theory and practice by incorporating real-world application questions. Challenge students to analyze situations, apply their knowledge, and present solutions that demonstrate their understanding in a practical context. 

    • Multiple choice with a twist: While multiple-choice questions can still be a valuable tool, elevate them by including an explanation component. This prompts students to explain the reasoning behind their chosen answer, fostering critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the concepts. 

    Explore alternate forms of assessment to gain a deeper understanding of your students' mathematical thinking.

    Avoid ambiguity when creating test questions. When crafting test questions, prioritize clear and concise instructions. Eliminate any ambiguity by avoiding confusing language or misleading questions. This ensures students understand exactly what's expected of them, maximizing the quality and effectiveness of their test responses. 

    Create a positive testing environment. A positive testing environment is crucial for math students to perform their best and feel confident during tests. By communicating clearly about the test format, duration, and content in advance, teachers can reduce student anxiety and uncertainty. A calm and quiet atmosphere, combined with clear instructions and a supportive tone, can help students feel more at ease and focused. Providing accessible resources, such as calculators or graph paper, and emphasizing effort over grades can also go a long way in promoting a positive testing environment. Additionally, offering breaks, encouraging active reading and working, and celebrating student progress can help reduce stress and increase motivation. By creating a positive testing environment, math teachers can help students develop a growth mindset, build confidence, and perform to the best of their ability. 

    Clearly explain instructions. Don't let test anxiety cloud understanding! Before your math assessments, take a moment to provide clear and concise instructions. Ensure students grasp exactly what's expected of them by explaining the format, grading criteria, and any specific requirements. This transparency reduces confusion, promotes a calm testing environment, and allows students to focus on demonstrating their mathematical knowledge. 

    TestingMonitor student progress. As you proctor the test, keep a watchful eye on your students' progress, gently circulating around the room to provide support and encouragement. Take note of students who may be struggling or showing signs of stress, and discreetly offer assistance or reassurance. This can be as simple as whispering a calming phrase or reminding them to take a deep breath, or as tailored as providing additional explanations or examples to help them work through a tricky problem. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can help identify areas where students may need extra help, reduce test anxiety, and ultimately help them perform to the best of their ability. 

    Provide feedback. When providing feedback on student test performance, focus on being specific, timely, and actionable. Highlight areas of strength and skill mastery, as well as pinpoint specific mistakes or misunderstandings. Use this feedback to guide students towards targeted practice and review, helping them build on their strengths and address weaknesses. By providing constructive feedback that is both positive and constructive, you can help students develop a growth mindset and feel empowered to take ownership of their learning. 

    Identify areas for improvement. When analyzing test results, look for patterns and trends that reveal areas of strength and weakness in student understanding. Identify common misconceptions or difficulties and use this information to inform your instruction and adjust your teaching strategies. Analyze the types of questions that students struggled with most and use this insight to develop targeted interventions and remediation plans. By carefully examining test results, you can refine your teaching approach to better meet the needs of your students and help them build a strong foundation in math. 

    Use the results to adjust your instruction. When adjusting instruction based on test results, prioritize targeted practice and review to address areas of struggle. Provide additional support and scaffolding for students who need it, and challenge more advanced students with complex problems and real-world applications. Consider using different instructional strategies or technology tools to engage students and promote deeper understanding. By adapting your instruction to meet the needs of your students, you can help them stay motivated and engaged, and ultimately achieve greater success in math. 

    Emphasize effort over grades. When grading tests, consider using a growth mindset approach that emphasizes effort and persistence over grades. Focus on recognizing and rewarding progress, rather than just achieving a high score. Celebrate students' willingness to take risks and learn from mistakes and encourage them to view challenges as opportunities for growth. By shifting the focus from grades to effort, you can help students develop a love of learning that will serve them well beyond the classroom. See more tips on effective grading practices.