Monday, August 19, 2013

Test-Savvy Math: Fostering Thinking and Reasoning into the Test-Prep Process by Christine King is designed to help teachers by providing practical, year-long, interactive activities to develop students’ test-taking skills, while helping to build critical thinking skills.  Test-savvy strategies are grounded in the Common Core Mathematical Practices and takes a research-based approach, incorporating student collaboration, student-ownership, math talk, error analysis and tapping into prior knowledge.  Test-Savvy Math: Fostering Thinking and Reasoning into the Test-Prep Process is meant to work in conjunction with your existing curriculum and test-prep resources. Scroll to the bottom of this page to find webinars about the test-savvy philosophy.

All test-savvy strategies have some common characteristics:
  • Fostering accountable talk and opportunities for students to share, naturally and almost automatically. 
  • Allows students to draw upon their prior knowledge and generate new ideas, creating stronger mathematical connections and understandings. 
  • Requires student justification of solutions, while allowing for errors and builds in mechanisms to learn from their own mistakes
  • Embody higher order thinking skills via the application of knowledge and/or procedures, analysis of the task presented, evaluation of the work produced and creation using synthesized information. 
See what Phil Daro from Toolkit for Change, one of the crafters of the Common Core Standards, has to say about test-prep:

"Repetitive practice on multiple choice test items does not raise scores much, nor does it help students sort out their misunderstandings. The Turn Test Prep in Learning strategy focuses on changing classroom practices devoted to preparing students for high-stakes assessments. It shifts test preparation from solving multiple-choice items and checking answers to engaging students in reasoning about the mathematical content and processes embedded in the items.

The alternative responses offered in multiple-choice items are not random. Apart from the correct answer, they are usually those responses that arise from the most common misconceptions. This strategy works by having students analyze distractors to detect, diagnose and work through misconceptions, with the aim of helping them develop better understanding of the mathematics.

This has five highly beneficial effects:
  • Students come to understand their own individual mistakes and misconceptions.
  • This “detective” role leads students to think in more reflective ways.
  • Students feel more responsible for their own learning.
  • The strategy leads to more robust long-term learning and, if done well, higher test scores.
  • Teachers broaden their range of teaching style and strategies in a valuable way.