Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part VI – How to Respond to PARCC/NJSLA Math Items

Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part VI – How to Respond to PARCC/NJSLA Math Items

Jaclyn Siano

How to Respond to PARCC/NJSLA Math Items

“Direction Detective”

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC/NJSLA. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC/NJSLA tests.

I asked students, “How does the new assessment compare to the previous assessment?” The most common response was “the new questions are challenging.”

I asked for more details about how they are challenging. “Thinking more” was the phrase many students used to describe the increased rigor and use of higher-level critical-thinking skills.

Here is how Common Core describes “rigor:" “The standards will include high-level cognitive demands by asking students to demonstrate deep conceptual understanding through the application of content knowledge and skills to new situations.” –


Increased rigor in the assessment is not just part of the question design and how PARCC/NJSLA measures understanding. It’s also part of how the student is required to provide their answers. Advancements in assessment delivery via technology contribute to this rigor. Consider the critical thinking needed to consider all the possible ways to express a number verses identifying just one way to express a number:

Features to Emphasize in the PARCC/NJSLA Assessment Items

The PARCC/NJSLA assessment features new technology-enhanced items in two categories:

     1. Constructed Response: The student constructs the answer. This could be a single number, an expression, equation or inequality, a completed mathematical model,     or a combination of words and math.

     2. Selected Response: A selection of possible responses are provided; the student selects the correct response(s). There are at least seven different styles of these     items, including: Drag and Drop, Multiple Select, Multiple Choice, Drop-Down Menus, Sort by Category, Reorder the selections.

A PARCC/NJSLA assessment item is more than a standard math question. Each item has specific directions that describe how the student should provide the answer. Here is a short list of the various directions provided with PARCC/NJSLA practice items:

Drag and drop the fractions and operation symbols. You may select more than one box for each figure. Select the correct symbol from each drop down menu. Enter your answer in the space provided. Which explanation about the figures is correct your fraction. Statements that correctly describe….that apply.

How to Become a Direction Detective

When practicing with the PARCC/NJSLA Practice Test, students need to use the When students practice math in the classroom, students should use a highlighter to decipher the directions for any task. Allow the student to do this independently and then check for understanding by asking the student to state the directions in his or her own words.

  • Incorporate similar styles of questions and accompanying directions in the tasks used in the classroom. If the direction sentences are commonplace, they become familiar.
  • Ask students to recognize what error(s) can occur when the directions are ignored.

Inspired Instruction offers hundreds of PARCC/NJSLA lesson plans, online PARCC/NJSLA-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC/NJSLA workshops, and PARCC/NJSLA demonstration lessons. We would love to help your teachers and students do their best in preparing for PARCC/NJSLA and beyond.

Please contact Michele Regan for more information: or 908-223-7202

Inspired Instruction and Standards Solution Holding, LLC are not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.

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