5 Ways to prepare for the EOC Mathematics Exam

Each year I’m reminded how stressful end of course, EOC exams are for students and teachers alike. Students are befuddled with having to manage all the information and problem-types they have learned, or didn’t learn over the course of 27-odd weeks. A cloud of uncertainty looms overhead as students ask, “Will the TEST be an instrument weighing on graduation?” Meanwhile, teachers have identified key problem areas in their instructor-ship and want to make last-minute amends to rest assured they are not tanked next academic year. Teachers will offer study halls, practice tests, review materials, and identify areas of improvement in hopes students become responsible for their own last-minute learning. In the midst of all the stress, I’d like to recommend 5 strategies students and teachers can use to feel better prepared for the exam; granted these strategies are a single teacher’s audacious take at tackling the most bereaved, uncertain, and anticipated process students and teachers succumb to.

Review vocabulary.

Literacy may be the most important reason teachers have a job. By developing vocabulary, the hope is that students can assimilate knowledge with key words and concepts. These words and concepts are integrated not only within the curriculum, but across academic institutions and ACROSS OUR LIVES. By reviewing vocabulary, understood concepts are reinforced, while misunderstood concepts can be reviewed in-depth, through additional practice and development. Take for example, the word integer. A 6th grade student would be able to assimilate the concept integer number line, while a high school junior would be able to assimilate the concept of integer coefficients of polynomial expressions or integer powers. If the junior were unable to understand integer powers, the teacher would be able to scaffold additional practice on the earlier concepts of the integer number line. In this way, vocabulary reinforces built-upon concepts. Additionally, this vocabulary will be written into the test; it benefits the student to recognize nuances of the concept and develop a contextual ideation of the words. Here’s a nice compilation of vocabulary cards to get the ball rolling.

Meta-cognitive exercise #1: Play to your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses.

It was my early on opinion that the only way to master the test is to perform well across all concept areas. What I’ve since learned is do extremely well at what you already do well, and manage the rest. This means that the test-taker should be competent to score the 100% in that area they test well and adopt strategies for tackling the hard-parts of the test (namely those concepts identified by the vocabulary review). In general practice tests are available. I recommend taking the practice tests and reviewing benchmark data to identify areas of strength and improvement. Focus on super-performing on the easy parts, and performing well enough on the others. Khan Academy is a great resource for reteaching, additional practice, development, and assessment for the self-learner.

https://www.khanacademy.org/

Practice manipulating the calculator.

Every year I have taught, new technology is integrated into the EOC test. Beginning with a paper-based assessment with standalone calculator, to a computer-based assessment using an integrated scientific/graphing calculator, to adopting a web-supported, open-sourced graphing calculator. What I recommend is determine which calculator will be used; this will take some research, and spend time manipulating the calculator to do everything that you want it to. At the high school level this includes graphing, manipulating, tabulating, evaluating, and modeling. The teacher is responsible for creating time to practice these various calculations, precisely, accurately, and efficiently.

Many resources exist to aid in practice and development and review for self-learners. For example, Desmos graphing calculator, currently adopted by Arizona as the graphing utility for the EOC test, has many teacher-created tutorials for review. Here’s a compilation of tutorials for calculating with Desmos.

Familiarize yourself with the test’s structure.

Tests now have adopted a wide-angled lens for learner inputs. These include multiple choice, multi-select, constructed response, equation response, evidenced based selected response, grid item, hot text, matching item, and others. Be familiar with what each response-type looks like so that it is not a surprise come test day. Various games available on different online platforms can mimic the variable type of learner input required on the tests. For example Quizlet, offers user-developed flashcards that can be organized into a matching game similar to hot text or matching item.

Last, but not least, meta-cognitive exercise #2: Practice problem-solving strategies.

In How to Solve It, George Polya offers 4 principles to effective problem-solving. They are 1) Understanding the Problem, 2) Devising a Plan, 3) Carrying out the Plan, and 4) Looking back. For additional reading on Polya, and questions teachers and students should make, see below. Teachers and students must encourage each problem have the due process of solution finding, otherwise, you may have come to an inadequate answer. Doctors call these false positives, lawyers call this unfair treatment, for teachers and students its the difference between an answer and the solution: the difference between approaching and meeting the standard.