CAASPP Practice Tests: Addressing the Most Common CAASPP Math Mistakes

caaspp practice tests

The majority of CAASPP  practice tests aim to prepare students for the complex questions included on the CAASPP, but ultimately fail to help students practice the types of Mathematical Strategic Thinking that are required to complete each question. As a result, many students are trained purely on the content, like how to calculate percentages, but still struggle on the CAASPP because they do not understand the deeper levels of strategic thinking that are required to grasp what precisely a question is asking, how to use advanced tech types, and explain their thought processes. In this article, we will dive deep into the types of Mathematical Strategic Thinking that are instrumental for CAASPP math success and how to incorporate them into CAASPP practice tests. 

What is Mathematical Strategic Thinking? 

Mathematical Strategic Thinking is taken from the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice and was designed to help students to navigate the specialty questions that are found of high stakes assessments where students not only need to demonstrate content mastery but higher strategic thinking skills as well. Often, the reason students miss questions on the CAASPP is not that they don’t understand the content or the vocabulary, it is because the way the question is designed requires higher levels of strategic thinking that students are not prepared to use. 

Types of Mathematical Strategic Thinking on the CAASPP

There are many different kinds of strategic thinking needed on the CAASPP, so we’ve compiled some of the most common types and broken down how they show up on the CAASPP Math questions: 

Visual Analysis AND Graphing/Modeling

In Visual Analysis items students will analyze a graph, chart, table, or image within the question. On these questions, a visual that students would be unable to answer the question without must be incorporated. Often accompanying visual analysis is graphing or item interaction. In this type of question, students will manipulate a visual, like putting a line on a graph, shading a fraction bar, or interacting with a hot spot. Students often miss these questions because they do not understand the technology behind the questions and don’t have experience interacting with visuals. 

Convert Words to Equations AND Recognizing Operations

For converting words to equations, students are explicitly asked to write or identify an expression, equation, or inequality from a written statement or word problem. To solve these questions, students might also need to be able to recognize the basic math operations including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Many of the math questions on the CAASPP are phrased as word problems and students often mistake if the question is asking them to multiply, divide, add, or subtract and in what order. 

Claims AND Explain Steps

Claims questions require a student to read what a question is claiming is correct or incorrect and decide if they support it or not. Students will analyze statements to determine if they support or deny, whose claim is correct or incorrect, and find evidence that proves a claim or disproves a claim. This requires a deeper level of knowledge and is often accompanied by the requirement to Explain Steps. Students will either write their explanation or identify the correct explanation from another source.

Situational Analysis AND Comparing

Situational Analysis requires students to analyze more than one answer to find which is the right fit. These are often presented in the form of a “checkbox” that requires more than one answer, which is a struggle for students because they often mistake it for a multiple-choice problem and fail to select multiple correct answers. Another type of strategic thinking that is often required for checkbox questions is Comparison. Students will need to understand how to compare two or more numbers, equations, or concepts and be asked to determine which number is greater or less than the other, which numbers are equal to one another or to put numbers in order. 

Know and Apply a Formula AND Convert Visuals to Equations

For Know and Apply a Formula questions, students must recognize when to use a common formula and apply it correctly to the given situation. Some formula examples include slope intercept, area and perimeter, and the Pythagorean theorem. Knowing and applying a formula might also be needed when students are required to Convert Visuals to Equations. In these questions, students will need to understand how to analyze a visual and convert it into an expression, equation, or inequality. They might be required to compare fraction bars, find a linear equation based on a graph, or analyze pictures of money. 

CAASPP Practice Tests Incorporated in Ongoing Instruction

Many schools and districts make the mistake of waiting to focus on CAASPP skills on long practice exams taken in the few months leading up to the test. Instead, it is vital that educators learn how to incorporate and address CAASPP skills in ongoing instruction. One way to do this is by using our Strategic Thinking in Math CAASPP practice tests for just 30 minutes per week to build depth of knowledge and experience with the tech types that are used on the CAASPP. These question sets can be used for just a few minutes per day as homework, quizzes, self-practice, or classwork like a “Question of the Day” or a “Ticket Out The Door” which allows teachers to remediate as the live data comes in. 

Each question set consists of 11 questions, the first one always being an introduction question. The following four questions will always target the math content that students must understand: these will be purely computational and only contain what is inherent to the standard itself. These first questions will be formatted as more straightforward question types like multiple choice. The next four questions will be formatted as more advanced tech types: the types of questions introduced here will include checkboxes, matching tables, and hot spots. The final two questions in the set will be the most challenging: students will have to explain their thinking or find correct or incorrect answers by using higher levels of strategic thinking. Find our curriculum for grades 1-8 below:

For more on how to improve CAASPP Math scores by incorporating CAASPP practice into your ongoing instruction, check out our CAASPP math program

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