Throwback Thursday Extra-Test Prep

As the standardized testing season approaches, we present readers a special edition of Throwback Thursday featuring one of our more popular posts. Here, Beth Curran addresses common questions and misconceptions on the topic of Test Preparation. As a teacher, I encouraged my students to welcome their annual opportunity to “show what they know.”


Test Prep: Is it really necessary?

Originally published February 16, 2017

For many, Spring brings with it those two dreaded words: standardized tests.

Whether your school is required to take PARCC, Smarter Balanced, state mandated standards-based tests or ERBs, you inevitably will want to make sure your students are prepared.  Many teachers will plan to block out two to three weeks prior to the testing dates to review and teach content that may not have been covered, but is this interruption to instruction necessary?

It’s estimated that students and teachers lose an average of 24 hours of instructional time each year administering and taking standardized tests.  This doesn’t include time taken out of the instructional day for test prep so that number may even be quite higher.

Q: But, I need to review to make sure my students remember concepts taught at the beginning of the year.

 A: Not if you have been teaching to mastery.

Teaching math with a mastery-based program that is rich in problem-solving may all but eliminate the need for any test prep or review.  If your students have a solid foundation in the basics and have practiced applying that knowledge to solving problems throughout the school year, then nothing a standardized test can throw at them should be unachievable. With a cohesive curriculum, where concepts build on each other, your students have essentially been revisiting concepts throughout the year. So, trust in what your students have learned and skip the review.

Q: What about going over topics that I haven’t covered yet?

A: How much success have you had cramming for an exam?

If material is thrown at students for the sake of a test a few things can happen.

  • Students won’t retain information. If students have not been given enough time to progress through the concrete-representational-abstract phases of learning, they will likely not be able to recall concepts or apply those concepts to the unfamiliar situations they might encounter on the standardized test.
  • Students will be stressed out. They will feel the pressure (that unfortunately, you are likely feeling as well) to get a good score on the test. Learning becomes just something to do for a test.
  • You will get false positive results. Have you ever had the teacher in the next grade up comment that students couldn’t remember a concept that you know you taught? Or, better yet, had test scores reflect learning, but students couldn’t perform at the next grade level? That can be a result of concepts being taught too quickly.

So, rather than block out a few weeks to cram in topics that you haven’t covered, try integrating them into other areas of your day. Do some data analysis in morning meeting. Add some questions about telling time to your calendar activities. Play with measurement and geometry during recess (The weather is getting nice, right?).

If you follow the sequence in your well-thought-out curriculum and teach some of those missing concepts after testing, it’s ok. Your students will experience those concepts in an order that makes sense and will be able to make connections, apply their thinking and master those concepts. That mastery will stay with them into the next year and will be reflected on upcoming standardized tests.

After all, we don’t stop teaching after standardized tests.  Well… that’s probably a topic for another post.

photo courtesy of Alberto G.

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Word Problem Wednesday – Robin, Marcia, & Anna’s Ages

Word Problem Wednesday was such a hit, we’re going to continue throughout the year with one problem a month.

This problem was taken from Noetic Learning’s problem of the week and builds on the problem with the ropes from last month.  Sign up to receive their weekly problems.

Robin’s age is 3 times Marcia’s age. Anna is twice as old as Marcia. The sum of their ages is 30. How old is Marcia?

Submit your solutions and we’ll post all interesting strategies.


This problem was taken from Challenging Word Problems 2, a supplement to the Primary Mathematics series:

The total length of two ropes is 36 in. One rope is 4 in. longer than the other. What is the length of the longer rope?


Dedicated reader, Shirley Davis submitted the following solution:

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Announcing: Jumpstart Your Singapore Math® Instruction Workshops for 2018!

Back by popular demand!

We are pleased to announce the return of Jumpstart, an intensive, two-day workshop for current and potential users of Primary Math and Math in Focus, as well as any teacher interested in incorporating these techniques into their own classroom, regardless of current curriculum. If you are:

  • new to the Singapore approach to math instruction…
  • needing a refresher to boost your math teaching skills…
  • wanting to incorporate the best practices from Singapore into your current curriculum…or
  • curious about the reasons for Singapore’s remarkable success…

…then this workshop is for you!

Click here to get all of the details on this exciting program!

Location and dates currently available:

Tulsa, OK | July 23 – 24, 2018:
Register Now!

Fort Collins, CO | July 26 – 27, 2018:
Register Now!

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN | July 30-31, 2018
Register Now!

Do you want to be notified when a Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction is scheduled near you? Fill out the form below:

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Word Problem Wednesday – Bob’s Bikes

Word Problem Wednesday was such a hit, we’re going to continue throughout the year with one problem a month.

This problem comes from an oldie, but goodie: i-Excel Heuristic and Model Approach Primary 5 by Li Fanglan published by FAN-Math

Bob’s Bikes sold 96 bikes during the week and 1/4  of what was left on the weekend. After that, Bob still had 1/2 of his bikes left. How many bikes did Bob have at first?

Submit your solutions and we’ll post all interesting strategies.

The previous problem came from Dimensions Math 6A by Bill Jackson and Kow-Cheong Yan published in 2016 by Star Publishing Pte Ltd and Singapore Math Inc:

Esther has 3/5 as many e-books as Tim. After Tim deleted 18 e-books, they both had the same number of e-books on their tablets. How many e-books did Tim have at the start?


Dedicated reader, Shirley Davis submitted the following solution:


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Giving Thanks – Reflecting on An Amazing 2017!

Regular readers might know that I like to pause and take stock at this time of year. I broke that stride in 2016, but I’m doubly grateful to be back on track, with twice as much to share.

This year, I’m celebrating my 10th year as an independent Mathematics trainer/coach/consultant and 15th year working with Singapore Mathematics.

Thank you.

I say this every year, but it continues to be true: I am so grateful for the opportunity to champion elementary math education and to be able to spend time so much time in classrooms with teachers and students.  I extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has played a part in making the past two years so special.

I am humbled and honored by the demand for my coaching and training services that have been growing year after year. For some time, I’ve known that I could not personally meet the needs of all the schools seeking help. Despite that reality, I wasn’t about to expand without the perfect partner: someone who shares my passion for math education, someone with a deep understanding of teachers, students, math, and years of classroom teaching experience.

Beth Curran

Fortunately, I found that person in Beth Curran, my fabulous colleague. In June 2016, I was thrilled when Beth took a leap of faith and agreed to join Math Champions Professional Development. Before she joined Math Champions, Beth was an award-winning classroom teacher, department chair, and lead math teacher, specializing in the Singapore math approach.

Beth jumped right in as Math Champions’ Lead Trainer and Instructional Coach, visiting several dozen schools in more than a dozen states in her first year on the job. Beth’s knowledge, expertise and ability to relate to the varying demands of classroom teachers earned rave reviews (and LOTS of repeat visits to) from school clients. She is also my trusted confidant, coach, and advisor. I am so thankful to have found someone so dynamic as Beth.

Schools, Roles, and Curricula 

Of course, We’re extremely thankful for our clients. In the last 18 months, Beth and I have worked with 55 schools/clients in 20 states as well as Germany, China, England and Canada. We’ve had all manner of roles; overseeing new curriculum adoptions, coaching teachers, coaching coaches, and advising administration. We’ve worked with all varieties of Singapore curricula, including:

  • Elementary programs (Primary Mathematics, Math in Focus, Math Works, Eureka Math, Engage NY, Inspire Maths and Maths No Problem);
  • Middle school programs (Dimensions Math, Math in Focus, and New Elementary Math)

We’ve even developed hybrid programs, crafted to meet the particular needs of schools seeking a solution unavailable from off-the-shelf materials.

Jumpstart Your Singapore Math Instruction

In July 2017, Beth and I hosted Jumpstart your Singapore Math Instruction, our inaugural public workshop in St. Paul, MN. We were delighted by the overwhelmingly positive response to the program and plan to offer Jumpstart again in Minnesota (July 30 & 31) as well as other markets. We’re also planning other programs in 2018 (sign-up here to get on our notification list). Thanks to those who attended Jumpstart and to our host, Mounds Park Academy, for their superb facility and hospitality.

Regional, National, and International Presentations

I’m a big believer in continuing education and for many years have attended math educator conferences to learn from my teaching colleagues. Additionally, We’re truly thankful for speaking opportunities at so many of these gatherings. 2016 was especially remarkable; I presented at:

  • Keynote, Oxford University Press, International Forum on Singapore Math (Oxford)
  • researchED, Maths and Science Conference (Oxford)
  • researchEd Washington, DC
  • NCTM Annual Meeting
  • NCSM Annual Conference
  • National Conference on Singapore Math Strategies
  • NCTM Innov8
  • Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • California Mathematics Council (South)

Beth has quickly become a crowd favorite at conferences. Here’s a selection of our speaking gigs in 2017:


  • NCSM Annual Conference
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • California Mathematics Council (North)
  • California Mathematics Council (South)


  • NCTM Annual Meeting
  • National Conference on Teaching Math
  • NCTM Regional Meeting
  • National Catholic Educational Association
  • California Mathematics Council (South)
  • Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State

Looking Ahead!

2018 promises to be even more busy and exciting. We arere looking forward to:

  • Partnering with a growing number of schools interested in long-term projects.
  • New and improved website!
  • Presenting at the April 2018 meetings of:
  • Jumpstart Your Singapore Math in MN, CO, CA (?) and an east coast venue that has yet to be determined.
  • Sharing news about the successes achieved by some of the schools we’re working with — please let us know if you want to be a part of this series.
  • Opportunities that are, as yet, unknown. We can’t wait to see what the new year will bring!

Finally, we are eagerly anticipating sharing some big news this spring about a project that’s been in the works…


2017 has been gratifying for Cassy as:

  • Sons continue to grow into fine young men – one is expected to graduate from Colorado State University this spring with his Mathematics degree!
  • I once again surpassed my goal of reading 50 books in the year, by reading 57 books (but there’s still l time to add to that!)

And also for Beth as she has:

  • Spent time with her two grown children and grandchild.
  • Enjoyed traveling and cashing in on all those newly found frequent flyer miles!
  • Moved just outside of Roanoke, Virginia and is embracing the small town culture.

Special Thanks this year to…

Once again, our sincerest thanks to clients, colleagues, and partners for making 2016 and 2017 such wonderful years. If we may be of service at any time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

As passionate as ever about Singapore Mathematics,

-Cassy & Beth



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