Friday, February 8, 2013


Yeah that is a distress call I am sending out.

Here is the situation.  I am in my third year, I have figured out classroom management, I have figured out how to teach the concepts. I do have really great successes each week.  The problem is, how do I get the students to want to learn and succeed.  How do I get them to pass their benchmark exams?

It really comes down to this.  How do I get them to pass the tests...the standardized tests  or basically the cumulative tests. They do fine on the quizzes, tests at the end of the unit etc.  Then it just goes right out the window.  We are a small k-8 school and it is pretty much up to me to get the middle school to pass the state standards in math as I teach all of the 7th/8th math classes. My principal pretty much told me the future of my job depends on if I can get these kids to pass the test.

So what do I do?   Right now I am tempted to just open the NJAsk Coach workbook and drill them on this until May.  Is that the way?  Is teaching to the test really bad in math?

I am the only 7th/8th grade math teacher in my school, does anyone know of an active website where 7th/8th math teachers talk shop?  I am on Edmodo, twitter, etc.  Any suggestions are appreciated!


  1. I give weekly cumulative tests the last day of each week. By the time we take the Algebra 1 End of instruction test they will have mastered everything on the test. I think this also forces students to learn what I teach at the mastery level. This is not my idea but got it from other math teachers with very successful EOI test scores. Good Luck!!!

  2. I use released questions as clicker questions. We practice dissecting the question. I've come to realize its not a math knowledge problem but a critical reading problem.

    I have a problem solving rubric I use so that they use the critical reading skills throughout the year. Identify what the question is asking, draw and label a picture, what equation do you use, what numbers go with each variable.

    With the clicker questions we practice striking out unreasonable answers using proportional reasoning, common sense, and units.

    I include released questions in unit exams too. I also explain to my students the consequences I face if they don't do well. If you have a good relationship with them they won't want you to get fired.

  3. Thank you both! Mr. Hunt, I have started doing weekly quizzes too! I go over them on Monday and the students are going to start using them as study guides for tests.

    PhysicsTeach, I like that idea too. I use a lot of the Mass. test questions, they seem similar to NJ and Mass releases their whole tests!
    Instead of telling them the consequences I face, today I went in and told them if they can't pass these cumulative exams that they won't pass my class! I will find out how this strategy works this week! But I'm sticking to it, there is no reason they shouldn't pass these tests.

  4. As you know there is no magic pill. If the kids are "over tested" they may shut down. Have you had the students set goals and monitor their own progress? The goal would not be to earn an A or a B; the goal is to master the concept. Taking a few minutes to do this can be very powerful for your students. The act of creating and showing progress on a bar graph can be motivating to some. Students can look back and see when they've been successful and why.

    Keep up with formative assessments, exit slips, quick checks, etc. The times I've been surprised are when I don't take time to get feedback from the students.

    To go along with Mr. Hunt's suggestion you could add previous learned concepts to the homework.

    Good luck!

  5. Hi, Robin,

    I came across your blog via David Wees, and as a fellow mathematics educator I thought you might be able to help in spreading the word about an educational TV show for preteens about math that we're putting together. "The Number Hunter" is a cross between Bill Nye The Science Guy and The Crocodile Hunter -- bringing math to children in an innovative, adventurous way. I’d really appreciate your help in getting the word out about the project.

    I studied math education at Jacksonville University and the University of Florida. It became clear to me during my studies why we’re failing at teaching kids math. We're teaching it all wrong! Bill Nye taught kids that science is FUN. He showed them the EXPLOSIONS first and then the kids went to school to learn WHY things exploded. Kids learn about dinosaurs and amoeba and weird ocean life to make them go “wow”. But what about math? You probably remember the dreaded worksheets. Ugh.

    I’m sure you know math is much more exciting than people think. Fractal Geometry was used to create “Star Wars” backdrops, binary code was invented in Africa, The Great Pyramids and The Mona Lisa, wouldn’t exist without geometry.
    Our concept is to create an exciting, web-based TV show that’s both fun and educational.

    If you could consider posting about the project on your blog, I’d very much appreciate it. Also, if you'd be interested in link exchanging (either on The Number Hunter site, which is in development, or on which is a well-established site with 300,000 page views a month) please shoot me an email. We're also always looking for input and ideas from other math educators!

    Thanks in advance for your help,