After completing the difficult coursework in your teacher education program, signing up for student teaching, and taking care of any loose ends before you graduate, you’re finally on your way to becoming a middle school math teacher. Except, there’s one last hurdle to cross before you make math the most interesting subject to young adolescents.

As part of any certification process for teachers, the Praxis II is a standardized test used to measure competency in your chosen content area. For middle school educators looking to teach math, the Praxis you will need to pass is the Middle School: Mathematics test (test number 5169). This test may seem daunting at first, but according to the Official Praxis Study Guide for Middle School: Mathematics, it is condensed into the following sections:

- 55 selected-response and numeric entry questions total
- 34 out of 55 questions are based on arithmetic and algebra (62%)
- 21 out of 55 questions are based on geometry and data (38%)

Immediately, you can see the first strategy for success based on this data alone.

Although the 34 questions refer to both algebra and arithmetic, the former relies on the latter more often than not and thus the harder of the two should be your main study focus.

Algebra in this instance refers to concepts such as solving one and two-step equations (both linear and nonlinear), using these equations to determine whether functions are present, and interpreting the data of such functions. To put it simply, if you can answer yes to these questions, then you are well on the way to success for nearly ⅔ of the test:

- Can I solve multi-step equations?
- Can I find their slopes and intercepts?
- Can I plot the data or use tables and graphs?

If all else fails, just remember these key formulas (and if you can write them down prior to starting the test, all the better):

- Slope-intercept form: y=mx+b
- Point-slope form: y-y1+m(x-x1)
- Standard form: Ax+By=C (A, B, and C are constant)
- Parabola: y=ax
^{2}+bx+c (c is constant)

That’s not to say that you should ignore geometry completely–just that your main focus should be algebra. For geometry, remember that these basic rules apply regardless of what the shape is on the test:

- Perimeter: measure the outside of the shape by adding the length of the sides
- Area: measure the inside of the shape by multiplying the sides (a full list of equations can be found here)
- Volume: measure how much space can be filled in three-dimensional objects (refer to the list above)
- Conversion: change the form of the measurement from large to small or vice-versa (conversion table found here)

As of September 1st, 2016, any Praxis test that provides an on-screen calculator will not permit test-takers to bring their own calculator into the testing area. One of those tests, naturally, is the Middle School: Mathematics test. Fret not, because the solution is simple: practice for the Praxis using an on-screen calculator.

Yes, using a physical calculator is more preferable than using an on-screen calculator. It’s convenient, user error is minimal, and as humans, we enjoy using something tactile compared to simulations. With that said, you can get a head start in learning to use the on-screen calculator by downloading a simulator to your computer and using it in your practice tests leading up to test day.

I downloaded the Infinity Softworks calculator to my laptop and ran multiple linear and nonlinear functions to see how effective it was compared to a standard TI-84 Graphing calculator. Suffice to say, the on-screen calculator is effective. The graph is legible, the option to use a floating cursor or simply trace the data is beneficial depending on your usage, and digits and symbols can be added with the keyboard instead of scrolling with the mouse.

I suggest getting a head start by downloading the simulator to get over any learning curves, but bear in mind that the download is only accessible for 90 days, so make the most of your time.

You are taking this test under the assumption that you know about math and intend to teach it. It makes the most sense to answer the questions that give you the better odds of being correct. These are the question types:

- Numeric-entry: Your answer has to be exact or no credit awarded
- Multiple-choice: Your has to be correct, but wrong answers can be eliminated
- Clicking checkboxes: All of the answer choices must be chosen to receive credit
- Dragging and dropping: All answers must match to receive credit

The first, third, and fourth question types are “all or nothing,” meaning that one misstep can result in no credit. With multiple choice, you’re given 4-5 possible answers that can be narrowed down, bringing your odds of success from 25% to 50%. These odds are better than those of any of the other question types.

As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Once you complete all of the multiple choice questions, then answer the dragging and dropping, checkboxes, and numeric-entry, in that order. This will give you the better odds of hitting the 150-165 minimum score for passing (though the exact score will depend on your state or agency).

Passing the Praxis for Middle School: Mathematics test does not require you to be a wizard of calculus. It relies on you studying thoughtfully and approaching the content and questions with care. As long as you focus primarily on algebra, know how to use the on-screen calculator, and be strategic about what question types to answer when, you’ll be ready to step into the classroom as the best middle school math teacher you can be.

Sources:

- https://www.ets.org/s/praxis/pdf/5169.pdf
- http://mdk12.msde.maryland.gov/instruction/curriculum/hsa/geometry/math_reference_sheet.html
- https://www.math10.com/en/algebra/convenrsion-factors-length-area-volume-mass-speed-energy-power-force.html
- https://www.ets.org/praxis/test_day/policies/calculators/
- http://www.infinitysw.com/ets
- https://www.ets.org/praxis/institutions/scores/passing