How to Teach Fourth Grade: The Math Test

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Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics. 

Simeon Poisson 

My students recently just finished their Everyday Math Written Assessment for Unit 4 and I thought that I would share some of my ideas on issuing the typical fourth grade math test. I hope some of these ideas help.

First of all, my students enjoy math class for they are highly motivated and obviously supported. I view the parents as partners in learning. They play an important and irreplaceable role in math comprehension. I am fully aware that for a good many of my students, my role in their math learning is middling, at best. That said: we have a lot of fun exploring the subject.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I pre-assess each student before the start of each unit. From there, I heap a great amount of responsibility on the students to take charge of their own math understanding. They learn with partners and speak in conversational tones throughout most lessons. My job is to pair up the students with similar ability partners. Next, I steer the conversations so that each student becomes a little stronger in their understanding. Soon I will have the students write daily reflections on their new learning.

At the start of each math test, the students sit in “test mode” seating. Each kid is responsible for setting up dividers and each table group’s “go getter” are responsible for distributing the tests. Students look over the test and one or two students proactively volunteers to pass out needed math tools such as rulers, calculators or protractors.

Each test  an assessment for learning. Therefore, I routinely help out students as they learn. I pat the kids on their backs and compliment them throughout. For this specific test, the kids asked me to define terms like “withdraw” or “deposit. ” Both terms were not on my word wall so I happily explained what the words meant.

I review before each test on my interactive whiteboard. I am a pretty demanding teacher but I stop coaching in while the kids are taking their assessments. Rather, I celebrate their learning and cheer them on and do whatever else I can to boost their confidence.

I assign the first student to complete the test to collect the remaining tests and to alphabetize the tests according to last names. This helps me grade and input data on an excel spreadsheet.

Each grade-level focuses on a different algorithm throughout the year. This helps the student develop mastery with the four operations while the teachers develop mastery in routinely teaching a particular method.

I accommodate the students with graph paper and hands-on learning tools, such as base-ten blocks. All are welcome to use the tools regardless of their learning needs.

This helps all develop confidence in mathematics, my only goal during testing days throughout the year.


Poisson, S. (n.d.). Mathematics quotes. Retrieved from

Reflections on Instructional Strategies

Essential Questions

As I teach, I try to begin each lesson discussing the essential questions of the particular unit of study. I review what we worked on the previous lesson and talk about the enduring understandings from the unit. This is a habit that is relatively new for me. This practice has evolved as I have gained more experience with the backwards by design approach to education.


I am constantly looking to improve my one-to-one listening skills. I am a strong advocate in actively listening and responding to student inquiries and not unthinkingly following a teachers‘ guide. I am regularly in search of a “just-right” approach to each teaching moment. This takes mental discipline and a class that views itself and our work together as meaningful. I often experiment with new materials and ideas and I on occasion, make mistakes. However, the students seem to appreciate my risk taking and accept my rare lesson ideas that flop.


I assess students daily. I teach with regard and respect to how the human brain acquires information. I differentiate individual math lessons from unit pre assessments. I have learned to gather a plethora of information from thoroughly inspecting student-reading logs. I customarily investigate, then compliment, and then teach, during student-to-teacher conversation.

I habitually start each writing conference by asking, “So, what are you working on today?” I then begin the process of listening, reading and searching for meaningful strategies to improve student writing. With experience, I am becoming adept in improving my time-sensitive conversational skills. I have learned quite a bit from Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray and the late Donald Graves. I am quite grateful for their work. They each have had a profound influence on my life.

I base each teacher-to-student meeting on pre-assessment results. I am quite proud of my work and applications in this approach. Differentiation is a fixation as I progress through this year.

Classroom Management

My classroom management style is one where fun is instrumental to each lesson. At the start of each year, I model and teach good habits to my students and consistently look to help them create a learning community that respects and helps each other learn. I view my daily routine as not merely a “guide on the side” but rather a connector of students to habits of mind. I listen, respond, synthesize, and inquire. I rarely lecture.

Progress Report Narratives

My narrative report card writing focuses on positive habits and traits that my students use. I work exceedingly hard at individualizing my comments in a way that respects my students’ hard work. I craft each sentence in a style that leaves a positive impression. These narratives take relatively one hour per student to complete resulting in a 60-70 hour workweek.

The Experts

I have had many opportunities to learn from Bambi Betts, Robert Marzano, and Grant Wiggins in creating effective assessment tools. I am constantly looking to offer a variety of assessment tools and strategies that work. Bambi Betts has particularly taught me to develop assessment tools that students view as meaningful. I am quite proud of my work in this regard. I strongly believe that all assessment results be shared with the students and parents. I have found that this habit is greatly appreciated and helps me develop trust in my work.

I work hard to intentionally, consistently, and meaningfully reflect on my work and that of my students. I regularly have my students show their goals. I applaud their writings and use them to build meaning in future conversations.


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