Resources mentioned in this episode:

This is Only A Test: Teaching for Mathematical Understanding in an Age of Standardized Testing by Nancy Litton & Maryann Wickett


Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 96.  Today I want to give you a reminder that This is Only A Test.

Welcome to Build Math Minds the podcast, where fidelity to your students is greater than fidelity to your textbook. I’m your host, Christina Tondevold, the recovering traditionalist and Founder, where my mission is to change the way we teach elementary math to our kiddos. Are you ready to start building math minds and not just creating calculators? Let’s get started.

In a year we thought we’d finally NOT have to worry about standardized testing, right now educators are in the thick of the testing stressing.  So for this episode I wanted to share a segment from pages 9-10 in the book This is Only A Test: Teaching for Mathematical Understanding in an Age of Standardized Testing by Nancy Litton & Maryann Wickett.

“We encourage you to be positive, focus on what you are already doing for your students, and look for ways that you can improve instruction in the future.  Instead of getting overly concerned about how your students will perform on the current year’s test, consider trying something different.  Tell yourself that testing will be an opportunity for your students to show how much they’ve learned during the course of the year.  Rather than focus on the negative, keep your eye on the learning your students can achieve when they’re given an opportunity to develop understanding over time.  Taking this broad viewpoint is important because it’s a reminder that the year is long and that you’re likely to get further with your students if you begin the year getting to know their current level of understanding and planning instruction accordingly.  It’s more likely that your students will be ready for what’s on the test if you help them build a foundation starting with where they currently are in their understanding and then continue to look for opportunities that will help them move on to more complex thinking.

It’s our desire for our students to become problem solvers who understand and love mathematics for the fascinating subject that it is.  Working toward that goal keeps our students engaged today and will open doors for them in the future.  The rest of this book will help you strategize about how to prepare students for the rigors of testing without compromising the larger, more important goal of your mathematics program.  Our goal is to help teachers learn to cope with the pressures that accompany high-stakes testing as they go about the business of providing a strong conceptual foundation in mathematics for their students.”

In a year full of craziness, stress, and overwhelm know that this test that you are required to give your students is not a determination of how great a teacher you are or how great their mathematical understanding is….we’ve known that even before the pandemic, but especially this year there are so many other factors that are impacting our students that this one test is just that…It’s only a test.

The premise of the book is that we need to build a solid mathematical foundation for students throughout the year.  Prepare them to be thinkers and not just do-ers of math.  That is the best way to prepare them for standardized tests.  You can not predict every type of problem they will see on a test, so instead help them to become problem solvers and not just answer-getters.  If you have been doing that this year, you may not see high test scores this year but who cares.  We know that this year especially, it isn’t about high test scores.  Be well in the knowing that your students have enjoyed mathematics this year, they have engaged in new ways, and they are starting to build that solid conceptual foundation that will serve them well year after year.  If you want to learn more about how to prepare students for testing next year, get the book to read the strategies they give about how to lay the foundation while also preparing for the test. 

If you want to get the book, I’ll link to it over at the show notes page at

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.