Test-Taking Collaboration Strategy

April 2024

picture of amanda and tom

In 2023, we attended the CPM National Teacher Conference in San Francisco, California. As co-teachers (Amanda is a middle school special education teacher, and Tom is an 8th grade math teacher), we attended a session on co-teaching to learn additional strategies and techniques to bring back to our classroom.

One of the strategies we learned and tried in our classroom was allowing students time on test day to ask each other questions before they begin their test. Students put all their materials, including writing utensils, on the floor. We passed out the tests and gave them one minute to review them individually. (This individual thinking time was an adaptation we made.) During that time, we encouraged them to think of how they would approach the problem and identify any lingering questions. Then the timer was set for three minutes, and students used that time to walk around the room and ask each other questions. The only caveat was that they were not allowed to ask the teachers. Our hope for this strategy was that students could gain confidence, minimize test anxiety, and engage in peer-to-peer collaboration. 

In the Beginning

We have now seen many great benefits from using this strategy. However, when we first introduced it, most of the students did not utilize the time as intended. They glanced at the test during the individual review time and then spent the three-minute collaboration time talking with friends. We provided examples of questions they could ask, such as, “How would you start this problem?” or, “What is this problem asking me to do?” When students did not use the given time to discuss the test and mathematical concepts, we did not interject. We simply reminded them that this time could support their mathematical thinking.


More recently, when we gave an individual test, Tom, the 8th grade math teacher, heard one of the students on Amanda’s caseload ask some great questions. Historically, this student has not liked math class and had math goals in his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to support his skill development. During 6th and throughout much of 7th grade, he refused to complete many math assignments and much of the in-class work. He rarely showed justification, and if he did complete assignments or in-class work, he wrote the bare minimum.

Now, we have watched him seek out students who understand the math concepts and collaborate with people who are not typically considered his friends. We have observed him pointing to parts of the test and asking specific questions about the problem-solving process. Even better, after he got his questions answered, he could teach a few other students who asked him the same questions he had just asked. His mathematical status increased, and his confidence showed! He sat down to take his test with calm confidence and solved every problem with accuracy and robust justification. 

Although this story follows the journey of one student, we have seen this pattern of success on a more frequent basis with many other students. We are excited to continue using this strategy for years to come.

Also published on: https://imath.us/2024/02/06/test-taking-collaboration-strategy/

Amanda Kadulski and Tom Dagit

Amanda Kadulski and Tom Dagit


You are now leaving cpmstg.wpengine.com.

Did you want to leave cpmstg.wpengine.com?

I want to leave cpmstg.wpengine.com.

No, I want to stay on cpmstg.wpengine.com

Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

Edit Content

Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.