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PSAT/Math ?

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I'm about to have my 5th child go through the test process and as with all the others we're running into trouble with math. I have no clue at this point what to do. We use Singapore Math w/Horizons for daily review in elementary. Kids do great with that. Then we move to Saxon, Lial's or Chalk Dust (depending on the kid) all of which work fine. Then come the tests...not so fine. I've used Chalk Dust's SAT math practice which my kids have very much enjoyed...but no change on the test scores. Looking at the problems my dd misses on the practice tests it really is a matter of common sense. She has the "facts" down but the application and not getting confused is the problem. 

Today as we worked through more practice test math sections I see that she cannot see the "puzzle" as she is focused too much on what I will call "strict math". In other words, when faced with a problem she makes it way more complicated that it has to be and doesn't see how to find a simple(ish) process or answer for problems that really aren't all that difficult.

We use the practice books and she has gone through all of the math sections, we've used Khan for SAT math practice...I am at a loss. My kids have all hit home runs for the Reading/Writing sections but Math...GAH!!! I would love to find a math program for 7th+ that utilizes word problems such as are on the PSAT/SAT. The programs we use have plenty of word problems yet I don't feel that they are on the same plane as what we are needing/looking for. Chalk Dust, for example, has word problems that are very life-application yet not so much "Can you sift through what doesn't need to be here or can you figure out what is not being asked in order to find the answer?"

Am I making any sense at all? Advice? Admonishment? Encouragement? I can't exactly switch math programs with current dd but I have 8 more kids coming through the ranks and would love to figure this out for their sake. Or maybe there isn't anything to figure out and this is just how my kids do with math on standardized tests.

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I only have one data point, so I'm not sure it is helpful.

What I did with my youngest (for ACT not PSAT) is I had her work the practice test under timed conditions - starting at the right time, roughly breaks like I'd expect, etc. Then we sat down and went over the ones she missed. She did find on reading/writing, science, but math was her weak point. So, I had her take just the math section from several practice tests (timed) and she decided to mark the problems she didn't feel confident on but she tried to answer anyway. We went over step-by-step each one she missed and each one she struggled on (but still got right). This targeted practice with actual test questions seemed to really help. If I thought she needed refreshment on a specific topic, I provided that for her (usually just a quick review and a few problems) Her math score improved from practice to actual test. 

This was the only test prep we did.  I did not do this with oldest child. I wish I had so I could see if it was really helpful.

So, maybe have regular practice with released questions? Some of the math questions are written, IMO, in a semi-tricky manner. If you understand the math *AND* read carefully (and probably don't overthink it), you'll do fine.  Reading carefully each and every problem is essential. (Things like a problem asks for the 7th term in a series, but writes this as the series 2,4,6,... and one of the answers is 8 - a test taker who did not read the problem carefully will select 8 as the right answer and go on without realizing what they did.)


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9 hours ago, BakersDozen said:

"Can you sift through what doesn't need to be here or can you figure out what is not being asked in order to find the answer?"

 Or maybe there isn't anything to figure out and this is just how my kids do with math on standardized tests.


Singapore Math has some of that in their word problems. Giving more information than needed for answering the question.

It doesn’t matter so much which curriculum your child use but that they know test taking is more English than Math for the math section.

My kids had to be taught test taking skills for the English sections for SAT (they were okay with ACT English without test prep) while DS12 had to be taught test takings skills for all exams to do well. DS12 did much better the second time he took the SAT for all the sections.

What we did was take a printed practice test from CollegeBoard. Go down question by question and get my younger kid to tell us what the question is actually asking. It works for the subject tests and AP exams as well. Using one practice test and going through question by question after kid has completed the test, even if he got the question right just to make sure it wasn’t a lucky guess (we are okay with educated guess). After that DS12 caught on to how to interpret the questions for that particular exam. 

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She is taking practice tests under timed conditions. I actually have a group of students who join us in different places 3-4 times for this practice, especially first thing in the morning. We go over every question she missed step by step. I show her how it is the "English part" of the math that can trip her up. We do focused review of ones she missed. Questions of the day, book practice sets...all of this is excellent practice but what I really want is to find an actual math program that teaches common sense math/world problems.

We'll keep pushing through and see what happens. She is doing better on the practice tests this year so that's good, but it just kills me that the problems she is missing are the common sense, read that again and don't get "caught" ones.

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