I have always found it difficult to review for EQAO. Other than giving students lots of opportunities to see EQAO-type questions throughout the year, doing lots of EQAO questions before the test, offering lunch time help sessions, etc., I haven’t really known what to do. I’ve tried a few different things over the year, but never really felt that what I was doing was very effective or useful. I’m excited to share that I have some new strategies! Some strategies that not only allow students more exposure to multiple choice and long answer questions, but that also hilight their misconceptions and encourage a deeper understanding of the grade 9 math curriculum. These aren’t my own ideas. They are from many conversations with colleagues around the board about best practices in teaching grade 9 math. That’s the best part about this job… I get to learn so much because I get to talk to so many teachers!

Yesterday we worked with a grade 9 Academic class and used a strategy that Liisa had told me about that she has used in her classes. We wanted to help students develop strategies for answering multiple choice problems as well as some overall review of the course. The first question we asked students was “How do you think teachers make up multiple choice questions?”

One student replied that he thought we probably mostly copied and pasted from textbooks (yup, definitely a strategy I’m sure we all use from time to time!). Another thought that we picked common mistakes students might make when solving a problem and worked out the answer that would lead you to. My colleague, Elizabeth (who has experience writing for EQAO), was able to expand on this for the students. We then told them that we were going to now let them do some multiple-choice question writing.

Students were seated in homogeneous groupings and we gave each group one of six different questions. The questions were the stem of a real EQAO question with the four answers blank. They looked something like this:

Students had about 15 minutes with their partner to come up with the right answer, but also three good distractors. As we circulated around the class, we heard some fantastic conversations. It is one thing to be able to find the right answer to a question, but it takes some deep thinking sometimes to think about the mistakes that others might make.

After they had their four answers, we had students meet with the other group that had the same question as theirs to compare their options and come up with 4 final answers that they thought were the best. We then collected the “final answers” and had students go back to their seats with one clicker per pair. It was now time to see how good their distractors were!

For question 1, we wrote the four options on the SMARTboard. Students were given a few minutes to talk with their partner about what the right answer was and “click in” their answer. For example;

About 86% of the class chose (a) and the remaining 14% chose (d). I asked for someone to explain their choice, whether it was (a) or (d). One boy raised his hand to say that he had picked (a) because he had distributed out the numbers to get 12x-15-63x+14. He then simplified to get answer (a). I asked if anyone else had thought about it differently. A girl in the class raised her hand and said she had done the exact same thing as the other student, but she picked (d) because it was just another way of writing it. This girl saw answer (a) and (d) as being equivalent expressions! I asked the class what they thought. There were some puzzled looks so we gave them a moment to talk about it with their desk partners. Walking around and listening to their conversations, we realized that this was a misconception that several of them held. They didn’t know that brackets beside brackets was a convention we use for multiplication!

Elizabeth orchestrated a discussion about this with the class to clear things up. It felt good to be able to find out about a misconception in the class and to clear that up. The thing that struck me though was that if it hadn’t been for the nature of the activity – giving students an opportunity to speak and listening carefully to what they were saying – we never would have come across that!

There were many other great moments during the class, but there’s not enough time to mention them all here. This is a simple activity, but definitely one that I’ll be using again in the future!