EP 133: Active Learning in Math - Education Expert Rae Pica’s Recipe for Maximum Engagement

We all want learning to be fun. Students hope for exciting and interesting lessons because they want to enjoy the process and be happy at school. Teachers seek enjoyable curriculum options because it means that students will be more dialed in and receptive to new information. But the quest for engaging lessons goes beyond what students and teachers want. The truth is that fun curriculums lead to higher rates of retention. When teachers are able to wrap lessons around play, mental development is bolstered. According to a study conducted by the Child Life Council, “Play was found to significantly promote cognitive and social aspects of development.”

For this week’s episode, I had a chance to speak with a true superstar in the field of education: Rae Pica. Rae is a huge proponent of “Active Learning,” a teaching pedagogy that utilizes movement and music to maximize student development and learning. Rae has cultivated an expertise in “the development and education of the whole child and children’s physical activity.” She is the proud founder and director of Rae Pica Keynotes & Consulting and  has authored 19 books in the world of education, including Experiences in Movement and Music, the award-winning Great Games for Young Children, and Jump into Math.

One of Rae’s main philosophies in life and education revolves around the notion that people learn best when they are having fun. The idea that movement and music should be used in education comes straight from her core initiative to infuse learning with enjoyment. Working with young children for many years, Rae has used a number of physical activities to help children make mathematical connections. When teaching students to distinguish between terms like “under,” “over,” “big,” and “small,” Rae uses active exercises that engage children visually, physically, and auditorily.

For parents and teachers alike who are seeking to modify curriculums and activities to improve engagement, tune into this once in a lifetime opportunity to hear from a true expert in education. During the interview, Rae delves into a number of strategies and games that can be implemented to make learning fun. To learn more about Rae Pica, go to http://www.raepica.com/


EP 132: My Story, My Vision, and My Advice to Conquer Math

For those of you that have been following me on my journey over the last four years, you know the struggles and great joy that I have experienced. You know my pain and confusion, my tribulations and revelations, an my eventual entrance into the world of math education. But for those who haven’t watched everything unfold, I want to provide a quick recap of my path thus far. I do this on the heels of a piece that was just posted about me in the Huffington Post.

I share this story for three key reasons. Firstly, I hope that adults and children alike can gain inspiration from what I’m seeking to achieve. There have been many ups and downs along the way, but it’s been 100% worth it. I hope that message resonates loudly and clearly. The second reason why I’m sharing this story today is I want my followers and listeners to know what is in the works over the next few years. I endeavor to build products and video courses that will hopefully make an indelible mark on the way mathematics is taught. At the core of my vision is a dedication to engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Finally, I’m telling this story because part of this tale is the inherent belief that anyone can learn math. I would have never launched this business if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that fact. Once you can accept that truism, you can address the real factor that negatively impacts most folks preparing for math tests: math anxiety. Recognizing that much of the obstruction in mathematics is caused from negative emotions helps students understand that the task at hand is doable. The barricade is a mirage, and with the right tutelage and learning tools, success is inevitable.


EP 131: Top Online SAT Courses Compared

According to the College Board, the organization responsible for the creation of the SAT, nearly 1.36 million students took the SAT in 2016. This number is staggering considering the fact that 2.2 million graduating seniors in 2016 enrolled in colleges or universities around the country. That means that nearly 62% of college bound students are taking the SAT to gain admission to higher education. The SAT is not the only game in town; students have the option of also taking the ACT, a standardized test with equal weight in the college admissions process. But as the College Board revamped the format of the SAT in 2016 while simultaneously collaborating with Khan Academy to offer free test prep, students have been flocking back to the SAT.

In the last year, I have signed up and taken both official tests. I have documented my experiences on my YouTube channel, providing score reveals for the SAT and the ACT. The primary purpose of taking these tests was to compare and analyze the math portions of the exams. Although I received perfect scores on both exams for the math portions, I did find that I liked the SAT math better. Although the questions can be longer and wordier, I felt the layout of the test and clarity of the questions were superior. I also like that they have now included a no calculator section, giving an edge to those folks who have developed a steadfast mental math ability over the years.

When it comes to preparing for the SAT, there are innumerable options. Students can sign up for classes, private tutoring, and online curriculums. When choosing affordable options, the online curriculums are certainly the best. But how is a student or parent to choose from all of the existing programs and video courses? Since I am in the industry of creating video courses myself, I decided to share the results of my research. While it is true that I also have a math course for the SAT, I will not be discussing my course in this article. Instead, I will only be comparing and analyzing the available courses from larger companies in the test prep world. Without further ado, here is my ranking of the available resources.

 

 

When it comes to online SAT courses, I believe that presentation and format is paramount. In order to engage young minds, the production quality needs to be top notch. In this respect, Veritas Prep has put in the requisite work. Their videos are crisp and clean, and the instructors they use are polished and knowledgeable. Instructors stand next to a whiteboard that projects both slides and problems, allowing them to interact with the whiteboard on camera. The main teacher for math, Cambrian, is energetic and fun to watch. The course includes nearly 5 hours of video content and an assortment of books containing practice exercises. Of the courses reviewed in this article, I place Veritas Prep at the top.

 

 

If you enjoy the show Shark Tank, you may have seen Shaun Patel pitch his company to Mark Cuban. Mark liked the product pitch and decided to partner up with Patel.  The fruits of their collaboration is Expert Prep. The positive aspect of this company is that it was founded by a person who earned a perfect score on the SAT in high school. Another plus is that the video production is reasonably high. The lectures are given with a small talking head in the upper left hand corner as the content of the lecture is given on slides in the center of the screen. The engagement level is reasonable, though I would have to say that Veritas Prep’s cast of teachers is definitely preferable. My one issue with this course is that it emphasizes the importance of strategy over knowledge, and I personally believe that the math should be thoroughly learned and understood as opposed to utilizing strategies as workarounds.

 

 

In many respects, Khan Academy is actually superior to Expert Prep and Veritas Prep. All of the content is free, and the quality of the sample questions is top notch. The authenticity of the questions is almost guaranteed by the fact that the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy. The only piece that could be improved is the engagement of the videos. While they are extremely clear, the videos are simply whiteboard projections with no talking head. In order to truly engage students, a face or person should be visible during the lectures (as proven by analytics gathered from major online education platforms like Udemy). Aside from that small point, this is a fantastic resource with amazing value.

 

 

Princeton Review is one of the major players in the test prep industry. Their course contains 140 video lessons, 240 online drills, and 17 practice tests (though they are also counting the 8 practice tests made available by the College Board). The video content is comprised of teachers standing behind a glass wall using sharpies to write on said wall. Personally, I find this style of presentation to be slightly difficult to read, especially when the instructors are standing behind the writing. I found the teachers to have reasonable stage presence, and consider this to be a decent option given the fact that it is $200 less than Veritas Prep’s online SAT course.

 

 

This course boasts over 40 hours of video content along with over 1000 practice questions. They also have talking head videos, which contain narrations and explanations from actual Kaplan teachers. Like Princeton Review’s course, this class is on-demand and highly adjustable based on areas of strengths and weaknesses. It provides a great deal of content for its price, and should be considered for students seeking a low-priced option.

 

 

Ths SAT video course provided by ePrep includes 112 video lectures and 924 video explanations. While this course is fairly content heavy, I take issue with the presentation of the explanations. The videos simply show the problem on a piece of paper with narration and a pencil drawing the solutions. It is like Khan Academy in the sense that there is no talking head, but the narration is much drier than on Khan Academy’s site.

 

 

Lastly, Prep Scholar provides an online SAT course that costs more than Kaplan and Princeton Review. After looking through the course myself, I cannot recommend it alongside these other courses, especially due to its price of nearly $400. The first thing to note is that Prep Scholar’s course does not contain videos; instead, they have pages of explanations that students must read in order to understand concepts. With the abundance of great video resources, it does not make sense to use a product without videos. Another issue with this course is that the math problems seem to be modeled after the old SAT (before 2016).


EP 130: How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior

Dr. Kaye Otten has assisted children with behavioral challenges for over 20 years. But she didn’t set out to tackle this niche area of education at the onset of her career. She began her professional journey working as a second grade teacher in the midwest. While she may have anticipated a collection of mild-mannered and reticent students in her classroom, she was instead endowed with a classroom that contained heavy proportions of children with problematic behavior. In order to thrive at her place of employ, she began to immerse herself in the study of behavioral issues to decode the complex matrix of problematic behavior. Today, Dr. Otten holds a P.h.D. in special education works as a consultant for school districts and teachers to help guide the process of curbing and controlling difficult behavior. She has credentials in teaching early childhood, elementary, and special education in several states.

In her latest book, “How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior,” Dr. Otten provides a lengthy framework, replete with concise and clear explanations, regarding the process of dealing with children who are prone to misbehavior. During our interview, Dr. Otten explained a number of key principles, including the notion that suspension at schools is a poor form of punishment. What she encourages instead is specialized forms of in-school suspension that focus on modeling and reinforcing positive forms of behavior.

One of the main points in her book is that proper socialization education is a cornerstone of good behavior. Dr. Otten explained how social education and integration can be tackled, and moreover, why it is so important to the behavior equation. We also touched on the value of executive functioning abilities and how they influence the way children feel at school.

Lastly, Dr. Otten noted the importance of choice. All people want to feel empowered in some way. When given no options or alternatives, students can often feel trapped. This feeling lends itself to disobedience and acting out. Accordingly, she recommends always providing options for individuals, no matter how trivial, so that some feeling of autonomy can exist. To reach out to Dr. Otten directly, email her at kayeotten@mac.com. Make sure to check out the entire episode to snag all the valuable nuggets of information from this seasoned education professional.


EP 129: myON - a Revolutionary Reading Platform that Engages Children by Cultivating a Love for Literature

As an English teacher, Todd Brekhus noticed some issues with standard English curriculums. He could list a litany of intricacies that needed improvement, but one problem trumped all others: the love of reading was difficult to infuse.

This is an understandable problem given the standard dynamic of most classrooms. The typical protocol is to (1) assign a specific selection of books, (2) engage in coordinated discussions and activities regarding the assigned reading, and (3) assess students based on knowledge acquired from said books. The inherent problem with this approach is that certain children will not be drawn to the set of books assigned. This makes sense as interests are widespread. But how do you balance the aim to provide individualized content with the need to develop robust exercises to engage and assess understanding? Translation: how is it feasible for teachers to let their kids read anything they want and still teach?

In 2011, myON endeavored to answer this question. It was no small undertaking to say the least. While such a feat may have seemed impossible at the company’s inception, myON has risen to the challenge. Its quest and mission has evolved beautifully over the last 6 years, leading them to develop a robust online library of digital books and articles by partnering with over 60 publishers. The vast library of online material is not only spread across a number of interests and topics, but is bolstered by a suite specialized features meant to augment comprehension, including (1) customizable highlighting, (2) embedded dictionaries, and (3) and audio based reading capabilities. What’s special about the audio feature is that myON proactively dismissed the use of automated voice software, opting instead for a more authentic audio experience by employing professional actors to read the literature. The emblematic milestone of this company is its successful partnership with over 10,000 schools to date.

One of the most innovative and fascinating developments at myON is their newest product, myON News, which is a collection of self-created news content. Unlike most online reading programs that simply aggregate various resources, myON News is an actual content creator. The company employ writers to custom design news stories that are tied back into the resources contained in their extensive libraries. These custom written stories are perfect for classrooms because they are engineered to be fully in sync with lesson plans and activities included on the myON platform.

For schools aiming to bolster reading capabilities across a spectrum of grades and students, myON’s platform is an amazing tool worth exploring. For the full rundown of all available features and applications, check out the full podcast episode! To learn more about this trailblazing edTech company, go to http://about.myon.com/.

 


EP 128: Tools of Titans - a Targeted Synopsis of Tim Ferriss’ Best-Selling Book to Provide Choice Chunks of Advice for Achieving Maximum Productivity

Tim Ferriss is, without a doubt, one of my favorite people on the planet. His working goal is centered around providing the public with a constant stream of invaluable advice to be successful. What does “successful” mean? Whatever you want it to mean. The actual target or goal is almost irrelevant. It could be fitness based, financially grounded, or relationship related. The point is that to feel content and successful, we need (1) a goal of some sort and (2) the means to achieve it.

Tim Ferriss’ extensive body of work seeks to uncover familiar patterns amongst the ultra successful. His aim for doing so is to uncover a veritable blueprint for achieving lofty and ambitious goals. I believe he has found what he set out to unearth. The insights that he continues to uncover, refine, and present to his audience are so unbelievably valuable and unique that they have led to incredible levels of success for his brand and his podcast. Hopefully, I’ve sold you on the value that Tim Ferriss is able to provide time and again. Without further ado, here is a condensed recap of some of the beautiful nuggets that especially resonated with me. To hear my full insights on the collection of quotes below, make sure to check out the full podcast episode!

Derek Sivers, Founder of CD Baby

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.”

Neil Gaiman, Author

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Tony Robbins, Performance Coach

“Mastery doesn’t come from an infographic. What you know doesn’t mean sh**. What do you do consistently?”

Casey Neistat, Filmmaker

“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.”

Peter Thiel, Serial Company Founder

“[I]f you’re planning to do something with your life, if you have a 10-year plan of how to get there, you should ask: why can’t you do this in 6 months? Sometimes, you have to actually go through the complex, 10-year trajectory. But it’s at least worth asking whether that’s the story you’re telling yourself, or whether that’s the reality.”

Seth Godin, Author and Entrepreneur

“People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth will say that have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

Scott Adams, Creator of the “Dilbert” Comic Strip

“[I]f you want something extraordinary, you have two paths: (1) become the best at one specific thing or (2) become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.”

Chase Jarvis, CEO of CreativeLive

“Creativity is an infinite resource. The more you spend, the more you have.”

Tracy DiNunzio, Founder and CEO of Tradesy

“If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, and that’s what you express and project to people you know, you don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people.”

Chris Young, Inventor

“The most interesting jobs are the ones you make up.”

Scott Belsky, Entrepreneur

“Sometimes you need to stop doing things you love in order to nurture the one thing that matters most.”

B.J. Novak, Director and Actor

“If you find yourself saying, ‘But I’m making so much money’ about a job or project, pay attention. ‘But I’m making so much money’ or ‘But I’m making good money” is a warning sign that you’re probably not on the right track or, at least, you shouldn’t stay there for long.”

 


EP 127: Numberbender - A Math YouTuber Dedicated to Perfecting the Flipped Classroom

Four years ago, Dr. Peter Esperenza sought to do something special with his high school math class. His objective was twofold: make math lessons (1) more potent and (2) widely accessible. Moreover, he wanted to flip the classroom so that instruction could occur at a self-regulated pace in the comfort of one’s own home, allowing for more in-class activities and hands on exposure to the material being covered.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “Flipped Classroom,” it can be summarily described as follows (courtesy of www.numberbender.com): “A flipped classroom is one in which students watch and complete online lectures on the subject matter at home, and use their classroom time to work on problem sets with the help of their teacher and classmates.” It is a trend in education that is gaining unbelievable momentum, especially in the area of science and mathematics. As Philadelphia based teacher Mary Beth Hertz explains, flipped classroom environments allow students to “move at their own pace, review what they need when they need to, [and] catch up on missed lessons easily through the use of video and online course tools.”

As Dr. Esperenza began sharing his self-made videos with his class, he realized that a large repository was needed for his massive library of lectures. YouTube was the perfect home, as it not only had the capacity, but it was completely free. And so began Dr. Esperenza’s journey to upload hundreds upon hundreds of video lectures relating to algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Some of his most notable online lectures include Laws of Exponents, Evaluating Ratio and Proportion, and Introduction to Conic Sections.  His tutorials employ the use of a physical whiteboard, clean and multicolored illustrations, and concise explanations. The clarity of his explanations is precisely why he has been able to garner over 800,000 views and 7,000 subscribers since the inception of the channel.

While the majority of the lectures are presented in English for his students at Barstow High School, Dr. Esperenza wanted to help folks in his native country of the Philippines. As such, he began to create math tutorial videos in his native tongue. The response has been overwhelming. A wave of students from the Philippines have recently subscribed to his fast growing channel to soak up all of the amazing information provided. As Dr. Esperenza noted, there are not many options for solid math explanations in the Filipino language.

Dr. Esperenza is not only a teacher, professor, and YouTuber, but he is also an author. In early 2016, he published The Power of the Flipped Classroom, a multi-touch book that explains the process of flipping a classroom. He has also published three academic papers on the effects of successful implementation of a flipped classroom. He not only describes the process, but he also sheds light on the positive outcomes achieved measured via grading statistics. If you want to hear Dr. Esperenza’s story and understand precisely how flipped classrooms are revolutionizing the education industry, check out this enthralling podcast episode!


EP 126: Fidget Spinners: Learning Tools or Distractions?

If you have a child of any age, you no doubt have seen, touched, or experienced a “Fidget Spinner.” A fidget spinner is nothing more than a handheld wheel with a central axis point. They are sold in a multitude of shapes and designs, but the core commonality that binds them is their ability to be held and spun indefinitely. Lubrication between the joints enables them to go particularly fast, in some cases spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute. These quirky yet simple devices have actually been around since the 1990s, but have only recently exploded in popularity. Even I have had the opportunity to play with them, and I must say, they are oddly captivating.

But I don’t think it’s the look or feel of these devices that have catapulted them across headline news. The reason why these products seem to be so interesting and controversial is because of their categorization as a tool to ease the symptoms of attention related ailments that make it difficult for young students to focus in class. Makers of the spinning gadgets purport that these devices are "perfect for ADD, ADHD, anxiety and autism."

When students have trouble focusing in class, a potential solution is to offer them something that they can touch during class so that they feel a sense of calm. This in turn enables them to silence the parts of their brain that could lead them astray, thereby allowing them to pay attention and absorb information more efficiently.

In theory, fidget spinners sound like an excellent fit for such a solution. They feel nice when they are spinning, are very simple to operate, and reasonably priced. The problem, however, lies in how they are actually used. Fidget spinners are extremely fun to play with, and that’s why I believe that they are dangerous in classrooms. I have seen many of my students use them, both in class and during tutoring sessions, and what I notice is that the devices are mesmerizing. Students aren’t able to simply touch them while paying attention to a lecture; instead, they want to watch them, move them around, and balance them on their fingers and noses. In short, fidget spinners end up becoming a larger distraction than help. "The spinner toys, in my opinion, and that of teachers I've spoken to, are just that – toys," according to occupational therapist Stephen Poss. "Spinner toys are visually distracting, and I think that's their major drawback."

So where do I stand on the controversy surrounding these products? As long as my students are responsible with them, they are allowed to have them at school, but I definitely do not consider them to be helpful with respect to staying focused. I ask that they are put away during class so that students are not distracted. If you are being told that fidget spinners will actually improve your child’s attention or focus, I believe that you are being misled.

Here are links to the articles referenced in the podcast:

http://www.wlox.com/story/35364686/fidget-spinner-toy-or-therapy-tool

http://health.usnews.com/wellness/health-buzz/articles/2017-04-25/are-fidget-spinners-helpful-for-kids-with-adhd-autism-and-anxiety

http://www.livescience.com/58916-fidget-spinner-faq.html

 


EP 125: The Correlation Between Music and Math

I can say this with almost 100% certainty (perhaps 99.9%): if you are a person living on this planet, you enjoy listening to music. You may prefer the dark melodies and heavy guitar riffs of punk rock, or you might gravitate towards the light and upbeat sounds of electro pop. Whatever particular concoction of rhythms and sounds you prefer, rest assured that there is something that tickles your fancy.

There is something else you should know. While most folks readily profess a stalwart love for music, they simultaneously describe a deep hatred for mathematics. When thinking about classroom mathematics and modern music, it is natural to initially presume that the two are diametrically opposed, but this line of thinking is incorrect. The two are in fact inextricably connected (to hear more about the connection between math and music, check out my video on the applications of math). Music is simply an auditory extension of mathematics. Making good music mandates that composers adhere to numerical laws of rhythm, timing, and melody. Scales are literally mathematical rules applied to vibrational frequencies that seem be universal across the planet. Many famous composers like Iannis Xenakis openly use mathematical theories to create musical works of art.

But there is another connection to take notice of that is highly relevant to our young math students today. According to an article from Brain Balance, “using specific music and sounds may help to stimulate one hemisphere more than the other and possibly create more balance in the brain. As such, listening to music could improve a student’s cognition and ability to learn math skills. As recently as 2012, one study showed that listening to music during a math test could improve performance by 40 percent.” Translation: music can help you learn math! Moreover, the article purports that upbeat music and major tones in particular can bolster left hemisphere activities, which is directly relevant to logic based tasks like science and math reasoning.
I have known about the harmonious relationship between mathematics and music for some time now. Recognizing the interplay between the two was the impetus for me to begin the creation of a series of math music videos. I try to bridge the gap between music and math by literally singing about math related concepts. Moreover, I use the choruses as a sort of musical mnemonic device to give students the best opportunity possible to memorize tricky formulas and perform well on tests. To check out my latest math music video on special right triangles, click here.


EP 124: 6 Reasons Why You Should Study for a Math Placement Test

To date, I have worked as a private math tutor, test preparation specialist, 6th grade math teacher, and online video course creator. Part of my duties in these various positions have led me to counsel students who are transitioning to new middle schools, high schools, and colleges. The question that I have received over and over from students and parents is this: should one prepare for a math placement test? It is an interesting question since most folks naturally assume that everyone should study before an exam. So why the confusion? Because most schools tell new students not to prepare for placement tests. The rationale is that placement tests are merely meant to gauge current math skills, and preparation for these tests might muddy the waters. Moreover, there is no passing or failing; these tests will simply be used to determine what level of math a student will enter when school begins. For example, a new 7th grader may either enter pre-algebra, algebra, or geometry based on their placement test results. So, as it stands, most teachers and counselors seem to be advising students to go into these tests without preparation. Do I agree? Of course not, and I will explain why in six simple reasons.

Caveat: I only recommend preparing for placement tests when the desire to do so comes intrinsically from the student. Forcing the issue means the student is not mentally or emotionally prepared to work hard, and that can be a problem if placed into a high math group. If, however, the student is pushing for the preparation, there is no need to fear. Their desire to perform well will carry them. I am in support of introducing the idea to a student, but if they do not latch onto the concept, then my recommendation is to let them be.

Reason 1: It’s easy to forget nuances and lose points even when math fluency and comprehension are strong

Who out there remembers the quadratic formula in its entirety? Who recalls precisely how to take the derivative of sin(x)? Who can still solve a system of linear equations? As an adult who is far removed from the study of mathematics, my guess is that you have completely forgotten all of these protocols and procedures. But guess what… even if you’ve only had a month or two away from these concepts, chances are that you’ve forgotten parts of these processes. Perhaps you remember the bulk of the quadratic formula, but you somehow thought the denominator was 2 instead of 2a. Or maybe you confused the derivative of sin(x) with the derivative of cos(x).

My point is this: it is very easy to forget a small component of these formulas and procedures, even when your comprehension at one time was flawless. Is it then fair or accurate for a multiple choice math placement test to penalize a student for a series of minor mishaps? Absolutely not. Aside from being fair, it is inaccurate. Accordingly, brushing up on these concepts is a must. Just to be clear, I’m not advocating a full on multi-week cram session where you embark upon a quest to learn massive amounts of new information. What I do recommend, however, is a thorough review of all the concepts you learned in the previous year. It will not misrepresent your abilities; to the contrary, it will let your true math prowess shine.

Reason 2: Math knowledge can be substantially ramped up in a relatively short period of time

Math is not like reading. Becoming a solid reader takes years of practice and devotion because it is such a highly complex process. While math can be highly complex as well, middle school and high school mathematics is comprised of a series of relatively simple operations. When I say simple, I do not mean math is easy. What I mean is that much of the individual math concepts taught at these levels can be understood and mastered in a relatively short period of time. It’s the reason why students preparing for standardized tests routinely see a much larger jump in math scores than verbal scores after preparing for a few months. As such, engaging in some focused practice and review in a short period of time can have a significant impact on one’s ability on a math placement test. Translation: the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.

Reason 3: It is very unlikely that you can perform beyond your abilities on a placement test (i.e. if you can get it right on the placement test, you most likely GET IT)

So many math education websites state that you should not prepare for placement tests because you want to be in an appropriate math class for your knowledge and ability level. Well, since final exams are meant to gauge a student’s understanding of class material, should students forego preparation for final exams as well? What about standardized tests? Don’t we want students to be placed at a university that is appropriate for their skill level? The point is that preparation is part and parcel of the education process, and how hard a student is willing to prepare is also indicative of their ability to succeed through perseverance. Moreover, if a student understands a concept to the point where they can provide a correct answer on a placement test, they GET IT. I do, however, concede that students should refrain from guessing on placement tests. That would be counterproductive. Educated guesses make sense, but blind guesses would serve no purpose in assessing placement.

Reason 4: You can always move backwards, but you usually can’t move forward

Let’s play out the worst case scenario of acing a math placement test. Assume that a student going into 7th grade crushes the assessment and is moved into geometry, a very advanced math class for 7th grade. Let’s also assume that the student is now experiencing great trepidation about geometry and feels as though algebra would be a better fit. The parents concur. Is it feasible to move the child from geometry backwards to algebra? Of course! Schools are extremely amenable to moving a student backwards if both the parents and student feel that such placement is appropriate. Going the other way, however, is extremely difficult, especially with prestigious college preparatory institutions. Schools in the upper echelon of academia can be rigid with respect to placement results. I’ve seen many students fall victim to these systems only to end up facing boredom all year long. In sum, shoot for the stars so that you have options.

Reason 5: If you have a tutor, you will be more than equipped to iron out any difficulties that may arise in a challenging math class

For students lucky enough to have access to outside help, there is nothing to fear. Whether it’s a private tutor, parent, or teacher who volunteers after school, having access to extra help should alleviate any stress about being placed in an advanced math class. Any concepts that are troubling can be cleared up in a very short period of time when personalized help is available.

Reason 6: It is better to busy than be bored

Counselors constantly warn students of the dangers of being placed in a higher than appropriate math class. They admonish parents and students alike of how high level math classes can leave unprepared students feeling overwhelmed or anxious. But what about the alternative? What about the dangers of being bored? Boredom can destroy a child’s love for mathematics. Stagnation is a recipe for indifference. Moreover, the likelihood that a child will be completely overwhelmed with no ability to catch up is very small if the child possesses intrinsic motivation. Again, this entire article is premised on the fact that a child is preparing for a placement test because of his own desire. If a student indeed wants to prepare, they will likely embrace whatever challenge may come their way. So, it is with no hesitation or second thought that I leave you with this final recommendation: if a student wishes to prepare for a math placement test, by all means, let him do so.