Give Your Students Hope on a Math Test

Semester finals are coming! Of course you will review and try to prepare your students, but time is limited. How can you help your students do better and still keep your standards high?

USE   AN   ANSWER   BANK.

If you have a 20 question test and you have 20 answers in an answer bank, your test is still challenging but you are giving your students hope which means they will put more effort into trying! That’s what we want, right? EFFORT! 

Will some students guess by using the answer bank? Absolutely! When I give an answer bank, I have two rules:

  • Students have to keep the test for a certain amount of time before turning it in.
  • Students have to show work on all of the problems. 

Try it this year. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. If students feel like they have an advantage, it makes a big difference in their attitude. Please let me know how this goes for you.

I have two final assessments with answer banks if you would like to try them. (My Algebra 1 Final with an Answer Bank is in the works. Be on the lookout for it soon!)

Finals with answers banks are below:

Algebra STAAR 3 Week Review

Here we are again getting ready for another Algebra STAAR test. Last year was crazy and very hard to prepare students. This year is just as challenging, but in a different way. Last year, no one expected much from the students. Learning math online is super tough. This year, the expectations will be higher. We’ve had a full year of being back in a building. Students have learned more this year, but how will they perform after having some pretty dramatic learning loss from the past few years?

We are well into the 5th six weeks at this point and I only have quadratics left to teach. As far as reviewing for the STAAR, I’ve started a few things. We made STAAR flashcards from the task cards that are in one of my resources and students have done some of the boom cards to practice fill-in-the-blank questions. I’m going to start tutoring once a week after school and invite students that did poorly on the Algebra STAAR benchmark we just gave at the end of February. I will begin a three-week focused STAAR review on April 11th.

Here’s my plan for the last three weeks leading up to the test: (You will not see much on quadratics in this review since this is the topic that was just completed.)

Week 1: Bell Ringers for the next two weeks will be key features of linear, quadratic and exponential graphs. Obj. 4 – Correlation Coefficient and scatterplots for quadratics and exponential functions. Obj. 12(b, c, d) – Evaluating Functions and Algebraic and Geometric Sequences.

Week 2: Domain and Range for Linear, Quadratic & Exponential (Obj. 2a, 6a, 9a). Review of Systems (Obj. 2i, 3f, g, h, 5c). Review of Slope and Graphing Linear Functions (Obj. 3b and d).

Week 3: Start a brain dump. Use the brain dump for bell ringers. Obj. 5a – Solving Equations, Obj.10e – Factoring, Obj. 11b – Laws of Exponents

*I cannot plan for other students that are not mine, but this is a general plan that should work for most situations. Think about your own students and what their strengths and weaknesses are!

**These topics were strategically selected by analyzing past Algebra STAAR exams and knowing the Readiness Standards.

All of this material is in one place in my store if you are interested in purchasing. Click on the pic below to find it in my store:

Help Struggling Students Factor Quadratics

It’s the truth! Factoring is a major topic and somehow, we have to make sure students can do it. Factoring is needed for all math classes after Algebra and for all college entrance exams (SAT, PSAT and ACT) and placement exams (ACCUPLACER and TSI). Algebra teachers have enough on their plate without this pressure, but it’s our job to teach it and hopefully it will be reinforced in future math classes.

About ten years ago, one of my coworkers showed me a cool calculator method that I use with struggling students. Some students have a hard time with their multiplication facts which will make factoring a nightmare for them.

I hate most calculator tricks, but this one is actually a great tool. Let’s say a student needs to know all the factors of 135. Have them go to the graph of the calculator and type 135/x (135 divided by x). Next have the student look at the table. In the table, they will look for whole number values. For instance, across from an x of 1, is a y of 135. That of course means that 1 and 135 are factors of 135. The next set of whole number values are x = 3 and y = 45. When the list of numbers starts repeating, all of the factors have been found.

Look at the sample factoring problem below this paragraph. I have my students multiply the 9x^2 and the -15. The answer is -135x^2. To the right of the problem, they draw a large X . On the top, they write the -135x^2 and on the bottom of the X, they write the middle term: 22x. Next, they start making a list of all of the factors of 135. I tell them not to think about the negative at first…just make a list of factors. If they are not able to do that, then use the calculator to make the list. Once the list is made, then the students decide which factors will multiply to get -135 and subtract to get 22. The answer would be 27 and -5. Those two numbers are written on the left and right side of the X. Next, the original trinomial is turned into a polynomial with four terms. The second step below was 9x^2 + 27x – 5x – 15, before I started the grouping process. The problem is grouped and the factors are found. (Yes, I teach grouping. It helps with this type of problem and it helps with factoring out a GCF. Don’t skip grouping. If you’d like to see more about how I teach factoring go to this Factoring Blogpost.)

Here’s a quick video explaining the same problem:

All students can factor! Believe it, teach it and recycle it!

Take A Picture, It Will Last Longer And Be More Effective For Your Math Lesson

Real-life examples in math are super important, but it takes time to think of examples and to prepare a lesson using your examples. A quick way to make a lesson interesting and tied to a real-life situation is to take a picture then pose a question. This gets students to analyze details of a situation.

In the next few weeks, I will be talking to my Algebra students about arithmetic sequences and direct variation. I have a great blog post titled, “Examples of Real-Life Arithmetic Sequences.” Check it out if you’d like. I love all the pictures in that post, but I thought I’d take a new picture that I could pose a question to see what the students would say. Below is the question and picture. Feel free to use it yourself if you like it. 

(Yep, that’s my dishwasher in the background😂)

I’d give students a little time to think and jot their thoughts down. Next, I’d ask for feedback. Finally, my plan is to let them create a table using height of cups vs. number of cups for each situation. We will create equations and graphs and talk about the similarities and differences. Students will pay more attention to the details and take part in this activity. All the students will need is some grid paper and the picture which I will post on the board and in Canvas for them.

As a side note, I took this picture with my iPhone, then I used a free app called Layout from Instagram to create the collage. I used another free app called Typorama to add the question. Very simple and easy once you’ve done it a couple of times. I save all my photos in Google Photos which is easy to get to via phone or computer.