In March and May, students all over Hampton Roads will spend a long Saturday morning hunched over a desk, wiping sweaty palms nervously on their jeans, brows furrowed as they bubble in responses to the questions that will determine their futures. Okay, maybe not their entire futures, but at least their college options.
Ah, SAT testing season.
If your child's taking this test in the spring, now is the time to start preparing. A little knowledge goes a long way with test prep, and we like our students to feel calm and ready come test day.
Share our list of pro tips with your child:
1. Get a good night's sleep. No amount of hail-Mary cramming the night before a test is going to improve your score. You'll be exhausted and prone to careless errors. Too much caffeine will just make you a jittery mess. Go to bed, set an early alarm so you're not rushed, and eat a good, filling breakfast. Have your ID and test documents ready to go so the morning is calm is stress-free.
2. Know thy enemy. Well, that's probably dramatic -- the test isn't your enemy -- but you definitely need to know what to expect and how to navigate the questions. For instance:
3. Slow down. Timed tests can lead panicky students to make mistakes that don't reflect their true ability. You are better off answering the questions correctly, even if you run out of time and don't finish completely. Put it this way -- if you finish only 80% of the questions but answer them correctly, you've done better than if you finish the test and get about half of them wrong.
4. Mind your answer document. The very worst thing you could do would be to skip a question and start bubbling in all the wrong answers in on your answer document as a result. Stop every few questions or so and make sure you're bubbling in your answer to #22 in the #22 bubble, not #21 or #23.
5. Mark up your test booklet. You're allowed to write on this, so use that! Cross out wrong answers, underline key words and phrases, write out your math memory mnemonics in the margin.
6. Be strategic with your time. Don't use precious minutes trying to figure out what a question is asking or how to solve it if you really have no idea. Skip it! You can always come back to the question later. One strategy involves categorizing the questions as follows:
What are your best tips for test prep? Leave us a note in the comments with your ideas!
As we all know, the very best way to feel confident on test day is to be well-prepared with the math and verbal knowledge being tested. Let us know if our tutors can help you get ready! Just 2-3 hours of test prep tutoring, in your home and on your schedule, can significantly improve your score.
When a child struggles with reading or math in secondary school, everyone thinks it's a big deal. Parents get concerned about the child's GPA, college opportunities, and eligibility for sports and student activities.
In elementary school, however, some parents have a more relaxed attitude. They think the stakes are lower and a poor grade here or an off quarter there is no big deal.
Those parents are wrong. It is a very big deal when children struggle in reading and math, even as early as kindergarten. Especially as early as kindergarten.
Study after study identifies giant gaps in student abilities as early as kindergarten. There are some kids who start school strong -- with good pre-literacy skills and solid number sense. These kids excel or meet grade-level expectations from their first days in the classroom. Then there are the children who struggle. Maybe they didn't have the benefit of a pre-school program, or maybe they are just late bloomers who aren't into reading just yet. Maybe math is just harder for them, and in their crowded classrooms, they aren't getting the individual attention they need to thrive.
Whatever the reason, these beginning gaps don't just go away. In fact, research indicates that students who fall behind in elementary school never catch up. Without a solid foundation in reading skills and a conceptual understanding of math, these kids struggle to keep up for the rest of their student lives. The achievement gaps that open in kindergarten and first grade only widen and grow as the years go by. Children who struggle to grasp fractions don't go on to ace algebra without some kind of intervention or help. Kids who are slow, tedious readers in elementary school start to drown when they get to Charles Dickens in middle school.
This is why it's essential for parents to ensure that their children establish a solid foundation in early reading, writing, and math skills. It's not enough for your child to "just get by," passing SOLs with basic proficiency and heaving a sigh of relief when another year's done.
We're big believers in establishing that solid foundation. Our elementary tutors are K-6 specialists, and we know how important it is for your child to not just pass, but to thrive and excel, to move confidently from one grade to the next, equipped with the verbal and number skills that he or she will need for years to come.
As a parent or grandparent, there's a lot you can do to make sure your child or grandchild gets the help he needs NOW, rather than waiting and hoping the gaps will close.
Some parents and grandparents find that they alone are unable to help their child. Sometimes the math processes have changed, and sometimes the reading gaps are difficult to address -- after all, most parents are not reading specialists. You might know your child struggles to read but don't know how to help her.
If your child needs help NOW, please call us to talk about it, or get in touch here. Our in-home, one-on-one tutoring is an effective way to close the gaps. We have many strategies to share, and we've seen from years of experience how essential it is that the kids get help sooner rather than later.
Recent studies have shown that parents who struggled with math anxiety in school can unwittingly pass this learning difficulty to their own children. This happens when parents who have their own "math insecurity" assist their children with math homework.
These parents don't do it on purpose -- in fact, it's often because they are trying so hard to help their children do better in math than they did.
The problem is, their help backfires.
Instead of helping the child feel more confident with math, the parents often make what they think are reassuring remarks:
Researchers at the University of Chicago studied about 400 elementary students. They tested the kids' math abilities at the beginning of the school year, and they also surveyed them on their feelings about math. How do they feel when taking a math test? When doing their math homework? Parents completed a survey, too, responding to questions that asked about their own math anxiety and how much they help their kids with homework. At the end of the year, the students were re-tested in math and re-surveyed.
Turns out: the kids with math-anxious parents who helped with homework not only internalized their parents' discomfort with math, they actually learned less than their peers.
This kind of math anxiety has long-reaching effects. Adults who struggle with math don't just get nervous when it's time to split a restaurant bill. They also don't understand their credit card interest, how to best finance a car purchase, and what kind of savings will be needed for retirement.
So what's the moral of this story? Should parents who've had their own problems with math not help their children?
Well, it depends. If you can maintain a "math positive" attitude, you can probably provide support with passing your anxiety down to your child. You can do this by:
If you find that you're unable to support your child's math development without communicating your own angst, talk to us. Our tutors have an excellent track record of success, even with students for whom math has presented a years-long challenge.
One Chesapeake parent tells us:
"My daughter now understands the subject that once gave her so much trouble. Not only has she worked her way from a D to an A-, but she also passed the Algebra II SOL with a Pass-Advanced score!"
The most important skills we can teach our children are perhaps not division or solving equations, but grit and persistence. Kids need to learn that they can do hard things and that their teachers and parents will support them in the process. Math homework is a great opportunity to practice those skills.