Addition and Subtraction Assessment

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Students will be able to assess if they are prepared to tackle 5th grade math.

Big Idea

Addition and subtraction fact fluency is key to 5th grade math success.


It is important to assess your student’s skills in the first couple of weeks of school.  Do not assume that since mastering addition and subtraction is a second grade standard all of your students will be able to do this.  Just imagine you are having your class add and subtract fractions with mixed numbers and unlike denominators (5.NF.A.1)and you have a student who struggles with subtraction.  Or you are working on extending division to 2-digit divisors (Critical Area #2) A simple 5 minute timed test is all you need to assess your student’s abilities. 

There is also a strong tie into Critical Area 1 which states

1. Developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, and developing understanding of the multiplication of fractions and of division of fractions in limited cases (unit fractions divided by whole numbers and whole numbers divided by unit fractions).

Students apply their understanding of fractions and fraction models to represent the addition and subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators as equivalent calculations with like denominators. They develop fluency in calculating sums and differences of fractions, and make reasonable estimates of them. Students also use the meaning of fractions, of multiplication and division, and the relationship between multiplication and division to understand and explain why the procedures for multiplying and dividing fractions make sense. (Note: this is limited to the case of dividing unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions.)

If your student cannot add and/or subtract imagine how hard it is going to be for them to do this!

Take the time to teach your students the process of taking, grading and recording timed tests.  The first couple of times the process is just as important as the test.  I've gone from taking 40 minutes for the whole process to 20 minutes. 

Giving the Test

10 minutes

I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and feel like I’ve honed my basic fact test to a very useful tool.  In this lesson, I focus only on addition and subtraction, mainly because I give it only once in the year – in the first few weeks.  I don’t give it right away because I want an accurate reflection of my students abilities – basically their brains may not be “awake” from the summer vacation and it may take students a week to get into gear – I know it takes me a couple of weeks. 

Double side the timed test (Addition Timed Test and Subtraction Timed Test)– I use the same problems on both sides.  This way when students are checking their own work you only have to read off one side. They will then have the correct answers for the other side.  Most students will not make it to the second side so it is also a challenge for the students who do to check their own work.  Yes, I did say check their own work.  I will talk about this in the section on grading. 

Find some type of timer.  My students really like to be able to see the time counting down so I put my iPad under my document camera.  The one I use is an app called easyTimer.   If I’ve forgotten my iPad I use my SmartBoard.  Here is a link to a number of timers for Smart Notebook.  Or use an actual clockJ  I prefer the other two because they beep at the end of five minutes and I need the sound to alert me as well as the kids. 

Before I start the timer you will see a few students start to trace a figure 8 with their index finger even with their eyes.  This is an activity I have used for many years.  It is from Brain Gym: Simple Activities For Whole-Brain Learning and wakes up both sides of the brain when their finger crosses over their own center line.   You will see this happening in Brain Gym before spelling tests, math timed tests, district benchmarks or state tests. 

Set the timer for 5 minutes and get your students started.

Grading The Test

10 minutes

When the timer goes off, have students count the number of problems they completed on the test.  There is a mini lesson on fraction vocabulary embedded even in this direction.  Have students write the total number they completed as the denominator in a fraction.  Then have students put away their pencils and get out a permanent marking tool, ink, crayon, or highlighter and put all pencils inside their desks.  I really don’t mind what it is as long as it is not erasable.  While they are doing this I tell my students that they are going to be grading all of their timed tests this year and they are responsible for being trustworthy and truthful.  It will only hurt them if they cheat.  They are taking these tests to compare to only themselves and no one else.  It helps that I have a multiage classroom and typically my fourth graders start the year with a fewer number of problems completed in five minutes.  I tell them the 5th graders will typically have higher scores because they have been practicing for more years.  It is really interesting when a 4th grader comes up with the higher scores.  It creates a little friendly competition for the 5th graders and then that 4th grader will push themselves to get more problems done. 

To grade the test I have a weekly classroom job of math timed test grader.  There is a job sheet for every table of 4-5 students.  The students choose their jobs off the sheet every Monday.  The student who has this job brings their paper up front and reads their answers.  You could also have a Key for the students to read.  I prefer not to use one because then the students will make mistakes and this is what I call a happy accident – I get to model how to respectfully correct a mistake.  We all make them!

After the tests are graded have your students put the number they had correct as the numerator of the fraction. 

This gives me two important pieces of information – the students speed (fluency) in completing the problems and their accuracy.  I am looking for students to finish all 100 problems in 5 minutes.  If they have more than three problems missed out of the total they completed they need to slow down and work on their accuracy.  If you have a student who does not meet the 100 problems in five minutes it is something you will want to include the parents in helping their child.  At the beginning of the year I send home a note attached to the homework sheet about the students timed test scores with additional copies of the test to practice with.  I also have a silent reading time that lasts for 30 minutes everyday.  I require 20 minutes of silent reading and then 10 minutes for students to work on what they need – finishing up work, using flash cards or practicing on the math tests.  10 minutes a day =  50 minutes a week. 

Recording the Results

10 minutes

I no longer collect papers and spend hours recording the scores – work smarter not longer is my thought.  But of course there is a lesson for the students in this as well. 

Have each student read you their score and write it down in your Teacher Grade Book. This example I am showing you is my grade book.  I write my grades on a class list grading sheet.  I'm still old fashioned about this.  You can see the first two tests were addition and subtraction and then we went on to multiplication.  It is important to write the dates down on the top.  I've included a blank grade sheet page for you. I use it to record grades in all subject areas. 

I allow students who are not comfortable to come up to me and whisper their scores to me.  This is usually not a student with a low score but the ones with higher scores.  After you have one student who scores low increase their score the class will complement them and this leads to more and more kids who want to say their scores out loud and it is a great positive reinforcement from their peers. 

I also keep track by highlighting any scores that are below 85% and focus on more practice with these students.  Another reason to not collect the tests is because some parents would like to see the test.  I give students the option of taking the tests home or putting them in their records folder and recording their scores on a Timed Test Records sheet.  I do keep the first test and one test just before doing report cards. 

Since I only give these assessments once I do not have the students include them in their Math Timed Test Record Sheet.   I file them in my student portfolios for report cards and conferences. If you wanted you could have your students put these on the first two lines of their record sheet but be sure to have them labeled addition and subtraction. 

Here is a newer Math Timed Test Record Sheet my wonderful husband created for me.