SBAC Practice Tests: Addressing the Most Common CAASPP Math Mistakes

The majority of SBAC 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 SBAC 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 SBAC 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 SBAC 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 SBAC

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

Visual Analysis AND Graphing/Modeling

SBAC Practice Tests: Visual Analysis and Graphing

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

SBAC Practice Tests: 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 SBAC 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 and Explain Thinking

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

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

SBAC Practice Tests: Know and Apply a Formula

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. 

How do these Types of Strategic Thinking show up on the SBAC?

As we’ve now established, there are many kinds of strategic thinking that are involved in solving SBAC questions, and often times students need to use multiple types in order to successfully answer one question. Take a look at how this is broken down in the below analysis: 

Strategic Thinking SBAC Question Analysis with SBAC Practice Tests

SBAC Practice Test Question Analysis

Analyzing the above example of an actual SBAC practice test item, students will need multiple kinds of strategic thinking to correctly answer this question: 

  1. Graphing and Item Interaction: Students need to plot a point on the graph and interact with the visual correctly. 
  2. Know and Apply Formula: Students will need to successfully apply the slope-intercept formula that is needed in order to answer this question. 

Students often struggle with the technical knowledge needed to graph or interact with a visual like the example above. These kinds of practice problems should be incorporated in ongoing instruction using the exact tool so interaction with graphs can be removed as an extra cognitive stressor. With ongoing practice interacting with visuals, students won’t need to be worried about plotting points on graphs anymore and can instead focus on applying the content knowledge they already possess.

CAASPP Practice Tests Incorporated in Ongoing Instruction

Many schools and districts make the mistake of waiting to focus on SBAC 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 SBAC skills in ongoing instruction. One way to do this is by using our Strategic Thinking in Math SBAC practice tests for just 30 minutes per week to build depth of knowledge and experience with the tech types that are used on the SBAC. 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 SBAC practice into your ongoing instruction, check out our Countdown to the SBAC program

Implementation and Training SBAC program

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