Mastering PARCC Math

Mastering PARCC Math

Spring has sprung and with it comes testing season. Over the next few months, students across multiple states will be taking on the new, two-part PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Although PARCC’s computer-based administration and question styling may look different from previous tests, it still aligns to the Common Core State Standards, the learning goals for the majority of U.S. classrooms.

Below we’ve highlighted a sampling of PARCC-style items to help you familiarize students with the types of math tasks they will encounter this spring. Find more PARCC-style worksheets and questions at and be sure to visit Test Room to administer computer-based practice tests.

Multi-Select, Multiple-Choice Problems

Many of us grew up answering multiple-choice items that involved selecting one correct answer from four options. Today’s students will see multiple-choice questions that require selecting two or three correct answers from five or six options. For example, try your hand at this fourth grade PARCC style problem:

Go to this PARCC questions example - Multiple Answers - 4th Grade Fractions

Students at this level should be able to compare fractions with different numerators and denominators. Multi-select questions assess student reasoning and allow for a more thorough evaluation of a student’s conceptual understanding. When it comes to solving these problems, encourage students to:

  • read each question carefully
  • determine the number of required answers
  • eliminate incorrect answer choices

Incorrect Reasoning Problems

Simply being able to calculate answers correctly no longer makes the grade. Students must now show mastery of concepts by explaining why mathematical reasoning is flawed, and then correcting that reasoning. Give this third grade PARCC style problem a try:

Go to this PARCC questions example - Incorrect Reasoning - 3rd Grade Division

In order to receive full credit, the student must provide a valid explanation as to why the statement is incorrect; once she justifies her reasoning, she must then calculate the correct answer. This challenges students to delve beyond procedural fluency and demonstrate understanding of both the how and the why behind mathematical reasoning. To help students solve this type of problem:

  • encourage to them to write narrative justifications of their math work throughout the year
  • ask students to practice justifying a problem aloud in front of the class

Multiple Part Problems

Multiple part problems present two or three questions based on a real-world situation that require students to show reasoning through modeling, critical thinking, and application of integrated standards. All three are core components of the PARCC assessment. Go ahead and try this fifth grade item:

Go to this PARCC questions example - Multiple Part Problem - 5th Grade

At first glance, this problem may seem intimidating, but at its foundation, the item asks students to solve a basic length times width area problem. Beyond that, students must understand how to develop and solve expressions and equations, but within a real-world context. To help students solve this type of problem:

  • scaffold lessons and practice opportunities to work up to this type of task
  • challenge students to write modeling problems for their classmates to solve
  • encourage creativity when developing and solving math problems

You will amazed by the quality of work your students are capable of!

Using these strategies to familiarize students with the style of questions they may face on the PARCC exam will help alleviate test anxiety. More importantly, reassuring your children that they have the knowledge to do well, encouraging them to just do their best, promoting a good night’s sleep, and eating a healthy breakfast will ensure they are ready to tackle the PARCC with confidence. After all, this is only a test.

Posted By Lori Leclair

Lori Leclair is a freelance educational content developer. Using her classroom teaching experience coupled with her obsessive attention to detail, Lori crafts quality math and science materials designed for students and teachers. She currently serves as Help Teaching's Manger of Science and Math Content. When not devising and assessing curriculum materials, Lori can be found reading, camping with her family, or watching a youth baseball game from the bleachers.

One Response to “Mastering PARCC Math”

  1. Admin says:

    There was a lot of feedback for this post on our Facebook page ( so we wanted to add a comment here as well.

    Under No Child Left Behind, states are required to administer standardized tests to students in certain grades. PARCC is just a test that some states are opting to use for this purpose, while other states continue to use different tests. The larger issue is assessing the effectiveness of No Child Left Behind which is up for reauthorization this year.

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