MCAS Math Success – Excellence or Habit?

We just went through MCAS diagnostic week. Students take a 40-question mcas math diagnostic assessment to help us gauge how prepared they are for the Math MCAS and what areas we need to work on.

The MCAS questions are more than just arithmetic computation problems. Almost every question is a word problem.  Take this one below:

Fractions Tiles MCAS Question

Fractions Tiles MCAS Question

Many students not used to these type of word-intensive question structure get bogged down with the reading and miss the math.  To excel at the MCAS, a student should go over hundreds of MCAS questions until turning words into math becomes a habit.

That goes for math learning in general. It’s one thing to learn a concept.  It’s another thing to keep practicing on it until it becomes a habit.  You know something about habits?  It’s on cruise control.  Habits have stronger staying power in exam rooms, it’s less vulnerable to anxiety.  You see this in the Olympics all the time.  Muscle memory they call it.  Ask an Olympic figure skater how much thinking she does on the ice during that 3-minute performance.  Zilch.  It’s all muscle memory.  She’s practiced her routine so many times that it just plays out instinctively.

That’s what math skills are. It comes with a lot of practice.  But that kind of practice will pull a kid through in tense situations like MCAS exams, or in the near future SAT exams.  You hear parents talk about ‘test anxiety’.  They claim their children really know the material, but just ‘doesn’t test well’.   Is that so?  Before you put another label on your child, how about prescribing the same workout of successful athletes ?  Practice.  Until they can add fractions of unlike denominators half asleep, until they can rattle off without thinking that 4/5 is 80%.  Until they hear alarm bells when they see answers that don’t make number sense.  Then see if they test well or not.

Where to find hundred of MCAS Math questions? Go to : .  You can even pull up questions by category so if your student struggles with Fractions/Decimals, or with Geometry, you can find past year MCAS Math questions related to those topics.

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.  –Aristotle

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