# Teaching to the Test

Discussion in 'Third Grade' started by TeacherShelly, Apr 8, 2012.

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Apr 8, 2012

Advice please: My district sent out an end-of-year math test we will have to give next month.

One of the questions says to write the following as a fraction: .88

I have not taught my students that you can write .88 as 88/100 or .9 as 9/10, etc. In fractions, I taught them that 10¢ is 1/10th of \$1, for example (10 dimes equals one dollar), and that a dime is 10% of the dollar. However, I did not introduce the process of writing .10 as 10/100 or as 1/10.

I looked in our district and state standards and found that third graders should be able to translate common fractions into decimals, e.g., .75 equals 75% and .25 is 25%. .88 is not common, I don't think?

So, my dilemma: do I now stop the current unit long enough to tell them that .88 means 88 out of 100, or 88/100? And that .4 means 4 out of 10, or 4/10? Is there some relevant example I could use to teach them this?

Or, do I just remind them before the test that they can skip whatever they don't understand because we may not have covered it? This seems the best idea because 1) my school is alternative and largely believe in developmental education and learning at one's own pace - hence my lessons involving relevant things like money, music, and time; and not practicing writing a number as a fraction, mixed number, decimal, and percent.

And 2) everyone in the district uses Everyday Math except my school. The test is written with EDM conventions such as a circle with a Q in it meaning a quarter, or calling equations "names," as in, "Write two names for 7," with possible answers like 2+5 and 63/9. I'd have to translate all these conventions for them to make sense.

My school philosophy does not emphasize standardized curriculum or tests, and I will not get in trouble for poor scores in my class. However, the kids stress out when they don't understand things on tests, and it's a waste of time to administer the test as written.

Thoughts??

3. ### Linguist92021Phenom

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Apr 8, 2012

This may be a silly suggestion / question, but can you cross out that question, or better yet, tell them that it is a bonus question? This way they won't stress over it, but still try.

4. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

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Apr 8, 2012

Isn't it part of teaching money? That .34 means 34 cents out of a hundred, or 34/100?

5. ### czaczaMultitudinous

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Apr 8, 2012

"I looked in our district and state standards and found that third graders should be able to translate common fractions into decimals, e.g., .75 equals 75% and .25 is 25%. .88 is not common, I don't think?"

Your examples are translating decimals to percentages...
In any case, I'd be teaching what's on the test...

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Apr 8, 2012

Is it a high-stakes test meaning they must pass for promotion? If so, I'd teach it. If not, I'd stick with the philosophy of your school and standards of the district.

7. ### orangeteaConnoisseur

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Apr 8, 2012

If your district standards say you should teach it, I would try to find time to do a mini unit on it. I don't think you would be teaching to the test. You would just be covering material.

I agree with Alice; using money would be a good idea.

8. ### a2zVirtuoso

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Apr 8, 2012

You definitely need to teach this concept. By teaching this you are teaching the state standards. There really is no 'teaching to the test' as you imply since the state tests do not include random concepts that are not included in the state standards.

When I hear the term 'teaching to the test' I cringe because there really isn't such a thing. Now, I've seen some poor teaching using the tests as a teaching method. That is using the test to teach, not teaching to the test.

I believe the phrase 'teaching to the test' came about when it was found that teachers weren't teaching the standards as determined by the state board of education so what was on the test didn't match what and how they wanted to teach. In this case students wouldn't perform well on the tests not because of lack of learning, but lack of learning what was expected at that grade. Deflecting blame to the test using the notion that 'teaching to the test' was a bad thing came about. But I digress.

If it is part of the standard and you didn't teach it, you didn't teach the standard. Figure out how to teach it before the test. Next year, make sure it gets in there as part of the regular lessons.

9. ### moparMultitudinous

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Apr 8, 2012

Do you teach students to read a decimal and a fraction? Does your state standards mention translating decimals to fractions?

You could definitely teach this as money as Alice suggested. If you have already made the connection with money, the students should be able to do this.

10. ### HeatherYHabitué

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Apr 8, 2012

I hate that they base the test around the wording of the EM program. A lot of my kids had trouble on the state test because of the way things were worded and I really couldn't help them. I broke my heart because I knew they knew how to do it, but didn't understand the phrasing. I'd try to cover the concept as listed because like someone said, the kids start to freak if they don't understand something and it undermines their confidence for the rest of the test.

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Apr 8, 2012

Good Morning!

Thanks for the replies so far. Very good food for thought.

To be more clear, here are the standards:
• Compare fractions represented by drawings or concrete materials to show equivalency and to add and subtract simple fractions in context (e.g., 1/2 of a pizza is the same amount as 2/4 of another pizza that is the same size; show that 3/8 is larger than 1/4).
• Add and subtract simple fractions (e.g., determine that 1/8 + 3/8 is the same as 1/2).
• Solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of money amounts in decimal notation and multiply and divide money amounts in decimal notation by using whole-number multipliers and divisors.
• Know and understand that fractions and decimals are two different representations of the same concept (e.g., 50 cents is 1/2 of a dollar, 75 cents is 3/4 of a dollar)

This is from the Fourth grade standards:
• recognizes and generates equivalent forms of commonly used fractions and decimals

Based on this, I think this question is more appropriate for fourth grade:

10. Write each decimal as a fraction equivalent

a) 0.67 =
b) 0.06 =
c) 0.2 =
d) 0.88 =

Doesn't that seem right?

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Apr 8, 2012

About the use of the phrase "teaching to the test," this feels like a perfect example to me. When I found out what was on the test, I had to decide whether to teach it because I had not yet. So if I teach it now, that seems like I'm teaching to the content of the test.

I also think it can refer to teaching only tested subjects (in my grade level, that's English Language Arts and Mathematics).

13. ### czaczaMultitudinous

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Apr 8, 2012

Tests should be designed as to actually assess to what extent REQUIRED CONTENT was learned...to that point, we'd be 'teaching to the test' all year.

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OK. So the test question was not appropriate for the grade. I submitted my comments asking the math leadership to change the questions. They are often very reasonable when there is evidence that something is wrong.

Surprisingly, no one else in third grade district wide made any comments at all. I wonder if they're going to quickly introduce the fourth grade standard so their students might answer correctly.

HeatherY, thanks for your comment regarding EDM wording.

And Linguist, you have a good idea there. Using it as a Bonus would motivate a certain set of kids to go for it, and relieve another set of the conclusion that they should know it. Thanks!

15. ### JustMeVirtuoso

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Apr 8, 2012

I love the idea of bonus questions. My only concern would be if you will know who correctly answered the "questionable" questions... We unfortunately don't get the scores back for our May tests until the next year has already started (which is absurd). We also would probably be in some sort of testing violation for this, but I get the sense your district is a little different than mine.

Has your district considered teaching EDM or at least the language? I hate when students know the content but can't demonstrate it because of different terminology or what have you. Of course, that is a problem presented with all of standardized testing (being that it requires students to answer in a just-so manner).

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Apr 8, 2012

JustMe, I will know because it is simply a district-made End-of-Year Assessment that I can grade before turning in. At least that's how the Mid-Year Assessment went. And my whole district uses EDM so it is not a problem for the vast majority of students to learn the lingo. My school has special permission to teach developmentally, using other methods like project based learning, integrated studies, etc, instead of district required curriculum. We have to show that our alternative ways teach as well or better than the district choice, or just use the district choice if we can't. EDM simply does not work in multiage (not just split grade, genuine multiage) classrooms. I spoke to many experts from EDM on this subject and it's just not built for it. So I have my ways

Looking at the standards I copied, though (everyone, not just JustMe) doesn't it seem that the question is more suitable for fourth grade?

17. ### JustMeVirtuoso

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Apr 8, 2012

In that case (you scoring the assessment), I think the bonus idea is a tremendous one!

It does seem to fit under the fourth grade standard. I wonder if some third grade teachers didn't look as closely at the assessment...

18. ### a2zVirtuoso

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Apr 8, 2012

First question. Is the e.g. your example or actually in the standard because the bolded standard with example does not show fractions and decimals. I would expect that \$0.50 is 1/2 of a dollar. 50 cents is not a decimal in this form. So, the example does confuse me.

The previous unbolded standard actually addresses money in decimal format, "of money amounts in decimal notation ". Therefore students should understand money in decimal formats and understand what they represent (e.g. 4 x .25 = 1.00)

I see this as the typical 4th grade math where common fractions such as 1/2 equate to .5, 1/3 to .33, 7/8 to .875 etc.

The above is even a more basic question about decimal and fractional equivalents that require understanding of decimal place value.
a is 67/100
b is 6/100
c is 2/10

Yes, it does seem right. It is actually the question for the bolded standard where the example for some reason has money.

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I copied and pasted that from our district standards. I see your point about it being the right standard for the test question, without the example. I think most of my third graders and even second graders in my class know how to make \$1 using different coins. We made a flap book with flaps for each denomination of coin adding up to a dollar. (the back piece of construction paper represents a dollar; the next layer is shorter than the dollar and cut in half, labeled \$.50 and 50¢; the next is even shorter cut in fourths and labeled \$.25 and and 25¢ and so on to nickels). We've worked with that quite a bit, folding up flaps to show equivalencies. I suppose we could use it again to show decimals related to dollars.

My higher performing 3rd graders also made a place value foldable and filled in six places on the left and right of the decimal point, so they will get it. But like I said, the fourth grade standard explicitly speaks to the decimal/fraction/percentage concept, so I didn't make the strugglers do it.

20. ### sizzla_222Companion

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first year teaching is next year.... teaching 3rd. I am scared of standardized tests as third grade at my school always does really well! They have had 100 passing rate the past few years for reading.

21. ### amakayeEnthusiast

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I read the 4th grade standard more like a2z did--knowing some of the common equivalents, where the 3rd grade standard would include recognizing that 0.88 is the same as 88 hundredths or 88/100.

22. ### amakayeEnthusiast

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Apr 19, 2012

Sorry, just noticed the date on the earlier posts. What did you decide to do, Shelly?

23. ### DizneeTeachRVirtuoso

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When I started teaching the super said "If it's not on the test, don't teach it."

24. ### sizzla_222Companion

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Apr 20, 2012

students at my school are taking standardized tests this week!

25. ### missapril81Companion

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We have state testing, but as teachers we are not allowed to preview the test before we give it to students. We have to teach them the skills that they could possibly see on the test. So we are basically teaching to the test. I honestly feel very overwhelmed, because I was on maternity leave for 7 weeks. When I left my kids were just starting the multiplication chapter and when I came back they had just taken their test. The thing that concerns me is they sent 7 weeks on multiplication when they can use calculators. The way our math series is we have 12 chapters, so we should be able to do 2 chapters per six weeks. Got a little off topic but do feel I am only teaching/ cramming for the kids to pass and this is my first year in third grade. I am afraid of what there scores will look like. I previously taughtpre-k then special ed.

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May 5, 2012

I got the final version of the assessment this week, and they changed the question to:

(a) \$0.50 is what fraction of a dollar?___
(b) \$0.25 is what fraction of a dollar?___