Math Wheels for Note-taking?

Five Strategies for Test Prep for Middle School Math

For most middle school math teachers, standardized testing time is probably NOT a favorite time of year. 
And the test prep weeks leading up to it might not be our favorite time either.
In spite of the fact that we never want to teach to the test or prepare students just for a test, the fact remains that students have to take the standardized tests, and we want them to do the best they can.
So, what are the best test prep strategies for middle school math students?

Five Test Prep Strategies for Middle School Math

1) Spiral Review
The most effective test prep method I’ve found is using spiral review throughout the year.
The warm-ups I use review previous concepts, reinforce current concepts, and introduce new ones.
  • This way, we are always solidifying concepts (“prepping for the test”), and as we get closer to test time, the warm-ups give us a chance to discuss concepts that might show up in the testing, but that we won’t cover until after the testing occurs.
  • Using these warm-ups may put me a little ‘behind’ in the curriculum on a daily basis, because they take time; but it helps solidify understanding and puts my students a little ahead with other concepts at the same time. I’m good with that:-)

You can read more about spiral review here, or read on for some other ways to help students prep.

2) Turn Review Into a Game

  • Sometimes we’ve used  a Jeopardy-type game, with the math standard categories being the categories and the level of difficulty increasing with the number of points.
  • We’ve also used a Deal or No Deal type game, where teams of students answer a question (I use task cards from our different units as the questions). If they get the answer correct, they get to choose a case, and the cases hold different point values.
  • We also use our Truth or Dare games!

These games can span several days with a mix of concepts, or can focus on different standards on different days.

3) Use Centers
Your test prep strategies can include centers, to be implemented over the course of a week or two.

  • I often use Footloose games as a center, using cards from the different units we’ve covered.
  • One center can be a teacher-directed center that focuses on concepts you may not have gotten to in the curriculum yet. For me, that’s often surface area and volume.
  • I also use the computers as a center. This works especially well if you have a subscription like Study Island or something along those lines that offers practice based on the standards.

4) Try a Structured Review 
Try a structured review as one of your test prep strategies.

  • Display multiple choice questions for the whole group to solve and then select their answers. Together, analyze the answers and discuss why incorrect answers were chosen. Discuss how some answers could be eliminated. 

I love to use mini-whiteboards for this type of review – students just seem to have more fun figuring out problems on their own personal whiteboards!

I also like to have  students discuss their answers/compare their work with a partner or two and try come to a consensus, before discussing as a whole group.

To help with a structured review, I’ve created test prep packets and task cards for both 6th and 7th grades.

5) Discuss Test-Taking Strategies
Test prep needs to include a discussion of, and practice of, test-taking strategies (which we discuss using the Test-Taking Strategies Wheel). 

Sometimes, it’s not that students don’t understand how to complete a math problem. 

Sometimes, they miss information in the problem or misunderstand what the question is asking.

It’s important to take some time to practice test-taking strategies. Of course, this is something to focus on throughout the year, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher before test-taking begins. The strategies I focus on the most are:

  • Read directions
  • Underline
  • Choose a strategy
  • Read all answer choices
  • Eliminate answers
  • Check your work
  • Use resources
  • Take your time!!!
In closing, I think it’s critical that we use some type of review throughout the year, to help students keep using what they’ve learned. This way they don’t feel like they’re cramming for the test as it gets close.
However, if some of that cramming ends up being needed, we can review in a fun, relatively stress-free way.


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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