One half of the students at Booker Elementary School went to the soccer game. 1/3 of the students wore blue. ½ of the students who wore blue were boys. Forty boys wore blue. How many students were in the school?
Please hurry and solve this problem, because you have 37 more like it, and only 90 minutes to finish them all….And you’re in the third grade.
(This is a variation of an actual problem on a standardized test for 3rd graders.)
This is the second in a three part series about preparing your child for the end of year exams. Whatever your opinion about the necessity and validity of testing, you cannot change the fact that your child will soon be handed a bubble sheet and asked to remember material from an entire year. In A Bubble of Confidence, I addressed ways to boost your child’s test taking confidence. This article lists several ways to help prepare for the math portion of standardized tests. I must emphasize, however, that it is important to approach test taking with balance. Don’t add to the inherent stressfulness of the situation by loading your child down with extra study and work. Your goal is not to add to your child’s knowledge, but to help them effectively use and retrieve what they already know.
We have four boys, three of whom have ADHD Inattentive Type. Each one approaches a standardized test differently. Our youngest son loves the event, although his scores are no higher than his brothers’. Another boy has a 504 plan and has special modifications. (Read about them in Counting to 504.) Another son has relied on medication to concentrate during his exams. And one is always terrified; on testing day we email family and friends for prayer support.
Here are some of the strategies that have helped our guys. I hope they will give you some ideas as you work with your child.
1. Ask your child’s teacher for old copies of “test prep” books. If the school doesn’t have anything available, Amazon.com has test preparation workbooks that can help. Let your child do a little bit of the test each night.
2. Look for any gaps in basic understanding.
3. Standardized tests demand proficiency in word problems; some state tests have no ‘straight’ math problems at all. Help your child decode the math words in a problem. Waking Up from the Homework Nightmare has a math vocabulary list that will help turn a sentence into an equation.
4. Find out where careless errors occur. Misaligned numbers, incorrectly copied problems or answers, misread operation signs, and sloppy handwriting cause children to miss problems they understand. When a careless error is made, make a notation of why, and work out a strategy to minimize these mistakes.
5. Since most standardized tests have an entire section that requires use of a calculator, make sure your child is proficient on the type your school uses for testing. Purchase one for home use. Use it for regular homework, test preparation, and for games.
6. Familiarize your child with the various types of measurement tools. Rulers are notorious for creating confusion, as some have leading edges, and some do not. Schools use a variety of compasses and protractors that are not available at Wal-Mart. Check with your school to see what they use.
7. There are several ways to approach math problems. Help your child find the ways that work best for her. For a unique website that personalizes your child’s math learning experience, visit Prodigy.
Multiply your child’s chances of success by giving them that extra boost of confidence that comes from being prepared. Then follow it up with the extra shot of encouragement that comes from having a parent who loves them more than anyone could ever count!