Is this teaching to the test? Perhaps, however for students to perform well on these tests, they need a lot of practice with process, attention to detail, model making, checking their work, reading carefully, and more. The multi-step nature of the problems require steady attention and focus. Plus the fact that the tests are online, changes the way they'll need to approach each problem.
So what pattern of study will I present to prepare students for the tests.
First, I'll present a problem on the white board, and ask students to solve the problem on their own giving them about five minutes time.
Dissect the Problem, Model, and Solve Together
Next, we'll dissect the problem together by highlighting key words, making models, using number lines and other tools, and checking our work. We'll discuss how to set up the work space for multi-step problems so the data doesn't get mixed up or lost. We'll also discuss ways that we can input data so that we're inputting the correct figures and/or other information.
After that I'll give students a number of similar problems online or offline to practice with a partner, small group, or teacher.
Then, about once a week, I'll give students an independent assessment to assess their skill with performance based tasks.
As much as possible I'll try to craft assessments that have interesting, meaningful data and problems. I'll use Tuvalabs.com, in part, for that data. I'll also match problems to other events and content we're focused on at the time. In fact, I hope I can weave in the science standards for the MCAS test into this daily practice.
What's positive about this approach?
- Students will have the chance to practice their "attention to detail" skill with regard to math problem solving.
- Students will practice math skill and content that they've already studied in various ways.
- Students will be well prepared for the tests which will alleviate stress and worry.
- Students will continue to build a strong math foundation and see math connected to real world, relevant, and meaningful events and problems.
In the meantime, we'll continue to study the remaining standards of fractions, volume, line plots, and polygons as well as continued practice of computation skill and order of operations with whole numbers and fractions.
There's a lot of a catch-up in math since standards have changed for these fifth graders--lots to learn, and we'll approach this learning with a day-to-day practice and study approach.