Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's almost time for finals, and I scurried around last minute as is my nature to make a review for algebra and geometry. While I was doing so, I remembered various conversations I'd had with my algebra students this semester whenever test time rolled around.

I want them to be active learners and to take the initiative to think of what's going to be tested, go over problems of a type, come in for help if needed, etc, etc. Yea, I know, maybe it's all pipe dreams and wishful thinking, but how do you get them there. I tried with a study guide (not a review sheet), and after some tweaking, used it the few remaining times I had tests. I never went back and surveyed the students on paper to see if it changed their study habits. Maybe they just found it one more chore to do, but maybe it put a seed in their heads about how to study.

Or maybe not. Right after another test, we were discussing it in class, and some students raised their hands:
"other teachers give us a review sheet with questions to practice"
"other teachers give us points when we turn in the review sheet"

Yeesh. They think there's something magic about the extra review problems I could come up with. And THEN they want someone else to give them motivation to actually review. I said as much (in nice teacher talk words) to them in response to these questions. I don't know who I sold, or who still thinks, "meanie. give us the review!"


  1. ahhhh...reviews. Love that dilema! :) This year with my MMA class I am trying something new for the semester exam. I am giving out a project where they create a review game (with all kinds of criteria like making up 20 problems and providing an answer key). Then once the games are done, the kids will rotate around and play each other's games for review. We will see how this works... :)

  2. Maria Andersen just posted about this issue in 'Can We Teach Students to Understand Math Tests?' at Teaching College Math.

    She had a disappointing bunch of tests, so she designed a great review after the test, and she and her students began making flash cards for the new concepts.

    I think you'll like what she has to say.

  3. How to get kids to review?? It's a great dilemma. You want them to realize that the review is to help them on the test, but I don't think most teenagers think that far ahead. They don't worry about a test until it the day of the test arrives. When I taught pre-ap algebra II, I had no trouble getting them to do a review. In algebra I and MMA it is a different story. In these classes, I try to turn my reviews into something fun like a game or an activity where they get to move around the room. When I don't do something like this, over half will simply not do the review at all and then wonder why they made a 36 on the test. There is a misconception among many high school students that it is impossible to study for a math test.

  4. Building good study habits is definitely difficult, but one thing that I've been trying that seems to work is to get them to plan out their study approach in class. So, we come up with a list of all the topics we've covered since the last test. Then, in groups, they make individual study guides for each topic (so if there are 8 topics and 4 kids per group, each kid only does 2 study guides). Each study guide details the main points of the topic, an example problem and practice problems with the answer. This has been a good way to jog their memory about all that's been covered. And then, each student ranks from 1 (bad) to 5 (great), how well they know each topic, and makes a study plan for every day from that day until test day on what topic they're going to study and for how long, starting with the 2s/3s, and then the 1s and then the 5s. For each day, they have to find 5 problems from their textbook/worksheets that relate to that day's topic. They'll do those problems for the first time or again from scratch. With their study guide (I make a booklet for each group of their work) and their study plan (if they stick with it), they've gotten pretty good about studying for tests without extra review sheets.

  5. These all sound like usable, tangible ways to review for tests/quizzes. Thanks for chiming in with your ideas.

    I think part of my problem is that I think taking class time to review defeats some purpose (them being proactive in their learning) ... on the other hand, like you said, they're teenagers, so it's necessary to help them think of the future ... on my third hand, reviewing is part of learning and making something stick in your brain, so is it part of my job to incorporate that? ... on my 4th hand .... how do I teach the skill of them sinking or swimming when it comes to studying. Aaaaaahh.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Ms. Cookie

  6. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Although the professors typically don't bother with the students grades as opposed to elementary and secondary teachers whose performance is rated by standardized tests. The good professors simply tell us to review and since we're paying for it we do. Studying to be a math teacher and thinking about how to motivate my future pupils in a high school setting. my hope is to motivate them through traditional means such as bonus points and the like.