Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Ask the Teacher
Timed math facts, test success, reading stamina, standardized testing

by Deb Krupowicz

April 01, 2014

Why do teachers insist on kids doing timed tests on math facts? The pressure is more than my daughter can handle.

The research is mixed on whether timed math fact quizzes are recommended or even valuable. Many students do experience anxiety and frustration when trying to beat the clock.

Rather than console your daughter by telling her these quizzes donít matter, focus her attention on the real goal: quick recall of those facts. When a student has mastered these facts, she has laid a solid foundation for more challenging and advanced math skills. She will move into double- and triple-digit multiplication, long division and fraction work with much greater confidence if those facts are second nature to her. Without that solid foundation of basic math facts, she may understand the more advanced concept, but she will be frustrated with the time it takes her to complete problems. She will likely be disheartened that even following all of the correct steps results in an incorrect answer because of an error with a basic fact. That may lead her to think she is not a strong math student. Knowing basic math facts well can put her on the path to being a successful math student.

My daughter works hard and does well in school except when it comes to tests. She just doesnít seem to test well. What can I do to help her?

Test success comes from preparing early and preparing well. Help your daughter carefully reflect on when she starts studying for a test and what she does specifically to prepare.

Encourage your daughter to set aside time for studying for short periods each day as soon as she knows a test is coming, or even in anticipation of a test at the end of a unit before a test date has been announced. Reviewing lessons daily will make actual test preparation much easier.

Kids typically lock in on one preparation strategy and keep using it whether or not it is achieving the desired result. Rather than rely on one method (oral quizzing, for example), try something different. Have your daughter write a test for you and then have her grade it. Write a song together using the key ideas she is studying. Have her create a cartoon that tells a story with the concepts that will be on the test.

It may take some experimentation to find out the most effective study strategies for your daughter, but the effort will pay off throughout her educational career.

My son is in fourth grade and reads fairly well. However, he does not seem to be able to read for very long periods. How can I get him to read for more than ten minutes at a time?

Learning to read for a prolonged period of time takes practice, just like most skills. Before your son starts to read, have him engage in something physically active for ten or fifteen minutes. Then, set a timer for ten minutes and read alongside him. When the timer goes off, time him doing something active for two or three minutes. Reset the timer for ten minutes and read some more. Repeat this daily for three or four days.

When your son is able to stay focused on his reading for two ten-minute blocks, his reading blocks should increase to 12 minutes each. Follow the pattern of gradually increasing the number of minutes in the block to 15. Then start shortening the break period between the reading blocks.

As your sonís reading stamina increases, he will likely become more engaged in what he is reading. In no time, you will be able to eliminate using a timer.

With so much riding on standardized tests, I feel like I should be doing something to help my kids prepare. Are there ways I can help at home?

Standardized test preparation is a team effort among teachers, parents and students. Rely on your childrenís teachers to provide the academic framework that equips kids with the specific content understanding expected at their grade levels. As a parent, you can help by establishing a routine of sufficient rest and healthy breakfasts, especially for the days preceding the tests as well as the actual test days. Offer words of encouragement. Do not minimize the tests, but donít over-emphasize their importance either. Expect your children to approach the tests with a good attitude, ready to give their best.

Staying focused for the duration of the testing period can be a challenge, especially for younger children, but it becomes more important as each day goes by. Sincere commitment to your childrenís test success may also mean modifying other evening activities.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Masterís degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at