“My child has a 3.90 GPA, always aces math tests, and excels in AP English, but can’t seem to figure out the SAT!”

This is something we hear from parents at least a few times a week. To them, and especially to students, the stark incongruity between a student’s notable academic performance and not-so-notable SAT or ACT scores is difficult to reconcile, and can be extremely discouraging. This is especially so when there are students in your child’s peer group who seem to just “get it.” They barely study for the SAT or ACT and come out with off-the-charts scores.

If the situation above sounds familiar, we’re here to assure you that this is not a problem unique to you and your child: High-achievers struggle with the SAT and ACT all the time. Understanding the major reasons why top students run into standardized testing roadblocks is the first step in conquering the challenges these exams present.

The styles of the SAT and ACT deviate greatly from what students are used to seeing

Current high school curricula present information in a very cookie-cutter way. In their English classes, students are presented with fifteen vocabulary words on Monday, and told they will have a quiz on those words on Friday. They study those words, define them on the quiz (and maybe use them in sentences), and that’s it. For their reading responsibilities, students might be assigned a chapter in a book and told to write a reflection focusing on the use of three specific literary elements in the text. Students read the chapter, discuss it with friends and the teacher, and present their reflections. In their mathematics classes, students learn a topic, are taught how to solve two or three different sub-types of questions relevant to that topic, and see pretty much the same thing on the next exam. Topics are segregated, and quizzes and tests are often not cumulative.

Unfortunately, the SAT and ACT are entirely different. Different topics are mixed together, and it’s not necessarily the case that the student will have recently reviewed the strategy needed to solve any given problem.

Much of the mathematics on the SAT and ACT is foundational

“The SAT and ACT test easy math.”

For any advanced student, hearing that line from educators and fellow students is galling. But it’s true! The SAT and ACT test basic mathematics concepts, the foundations of which are usually taught in the 8th and 9th grade…and this is the major problem! Because most students are exposed to many “simple” concepts tested on the SAT and ACT––ratios, fractions, proportions, patterns, strange symbols, among many others––in late middle school or early high school, they may not recall how to deal with them by the time they’re high school juniors and see these concepts again on the SAT and ACT. Further, the fundamentals of these topics may never have been solidified in the first place. For example, it’s often the case that more abstract concepts like fractions and percentages don’t “sink in” the first time around. Unfortunately, the current system makes it difficult to fix these problems. Teachers of more advanced high school mathematics courses like Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Precalculus, are often bound by rigid and packed curricula, and thus have no choice but to assume their students have these fundamentals down; there isn’t time for them to go back and reteach what the students are supposed to have under their belts.

All reading is not equal

The SAT and ACT emphasize reading for broad ideas and understanding the intention and direction of an author’s argument. Once again, by the time they reach high school, students are presumed to have mastered these abilities, and are tasked with more intellectually advanced approaches with respect to the literature they read: providing thematic and character analyses, exposing and explaining literary elements in the texts, etc. However, many students simply don’t have a strong ability to do what is assumed to be the most fundamental of reading tasks: “getting the point” of a passage. This can spell disaster on either the SAT or ACT.

What are students to do?
The most important thing for advanced students to keep in mind is this: Great performance in school by no means guarantees great performance on the SAT or ACT. There are many things to know that will help you succeed on these tests, but the first step is to make sure your fundamentals are solid. Only then are you ready to learn the techniques and strategies specific to the SAT and ACT. If you have difficulties with things like fractions, percents, finding the main idea, and dealing with difficult words, consider seeking help to address these issues. In this way, you can ensure that you’re putting your best effort forward on your standardized college admissions exams!

About the Author

Evan Wessler graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University with a degree in Biology in 2009. Evan‘s experience has given him the ability to excel as a top educator at Method Test Prep. In his early days, Evan aspired to be an astronomer. One of his life goals is to travel the world in hopes of finding inspiration to write a work of fiction. A natural planner, Evan lives by the quote, “Previous planning prevents poor performance.”

Most educators will see social media as nothing more than a distraction for their students. It’s true that sometimes, our attachment to it can look more like an addiction. However, there’s more to social media than meets the eye. After all, Facebook has its roots in Harvard University, so can it be used to improve education? Here’s how it can be used in the classroom, and beyond, to bring students together and improve learning.

Create A Community

The main purpose of a social network is to bring people together. You can take advantage of that as an educator. Give your students a space where they can get together outside of class and talk about what they’re learning. It’s especially good if several students are finding the same concepts challenging. It gives them the opportunity to get together and work through the problems, perhaps with a student that’s already grasped the material.

Share Learning Materials With Students

As the educator, you can get involved with your students’ social media group, too. For example, it’s a great way to share materials with them, whether they’re directly linked to your subject or not. Educators may send links to sites such as StateOfWriting that can help students with assignment writing. This can cut down the amount of time you spend answering emails from students, as you can address all students at once.

Encourage Debate

When your class is in session, you’ll be encouraging your students to get involved and debate with each other. Social media gives them the chance to continue the debate outside of the classroom. After all, some students may only think of some points once they’ve had time to mull over the class, and some students may not feel comfortable speaking up in front of the class. This gives everyone the chance to talk about the topics at hand and learn more from each other.

Enable Students To Help Themselves And Each Other

When students need help with their work, being part of a social media network means that they can look to their peers for support. This means that they can get help with a simple question, or make connections help to more complex support if they need it. The Huffington Post says that students have taken to recommending good academic tutoring sites to each other. This means that they can become more self-sufficient and look for help themselves when they need it.

How To Implement Social Media In Your Classroom

If this all sounds good to you, then you’ll need to look at implementing social media in your classroom. Before you do, it’s worth addressing some concerns that you may have:

How do you ensure students use social networks appropriately? The way to do this is to teach them how to use social networks in general. Show them what happens to the data that they post, and how it never really disappears from the internet. It’s especially important to implement rules for using social media, especially in class.

How do you find time for networking? Ideally, this needs to be changed at the administration level. If you want to implement networking in your classroom, you’ll need to talk to your management and have them create the time for you. Show them how important it can be for your students’ development.

Where should you set up a social network? Many schools and universities already use online portals, such as Moodle, to bring together all their resources. It’s fairly simple to set up a network on them for your students to join and start discussing the learning at hand. If your school doesn’t have this, there are plenty of educational social networks online that you can use to create an online portal. Depending on the age of your students, you can even invite their parents to join, too.

The main thing to do when creating social networks for your students is to discuss it with them first. You’ll need to explain what’s expected of them when they use it, and lay down some ground rules. It may also be a good time to go over your school’s online usage policy. Also, it’s a good time to remind students that usage of technology at school is a privilege, not a right. If you make it clear that any student using the network improperly will have the privilege to use it revoked, it should keep issues to a minimum.

Now that you have done this, you can kick things off by sharing discussion questions online or sharing important resources. If you can spark a conversation online, then you’ll be off to a good start.

You can go far with social media in education, if you know how to use it. Use these tips to set your class up for networking. You’ll see just how much it can benefit your students.

Author Bio:
Rachel Summers is a freelance writer whose passion is helping students get the most out of their learning journey. She started out as a writer and journalist in the newspaper industry, before breaking out to go freelance and follow her own passions. Her writing is designed to help you get the most out of college.

The story of each individual’s math education can be represented, in stages, by the sets of numbers which he or she has used as a universe of discourse. A universe of discourse is best thought of, in math terms, as the largest set of numbers being talked about — i.e., the set of numbers from which all solutions to problems and equations must be drawn.

In the beginning, we usually have only the counting numbers or the whole numbers, and if a number isn’t in one of those sets it doesn’t exist. That’s why, for example, a 1st-grader will solemnly assure us that, “5 doesn’t go into 19” and, “You can’t take 5 from 3!”

Once the rational numbers, including negative integers, have been revealed, many new problems become solvable. The process continues until the entire set of real numbers is on the table, including the somewhat mysterious irrationals. This is a “map” of the real numbers:

The next, and last, big step is the introduction of the imaginary numbers, when the square root of -1 is defined to be the imaginary unit, i. When the imaginaries are added to the reals, we have the set (or, more properly speaking, the field) of complex numbers. Any number of the form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers, is a complex number. If b happens to be 0, then a + bi is the real number, a. If b is not 0, then a + bi is an imaginary number.

The complete picture looks like this:

Sometimes there is confusion on this last point: Some contend that, for example, 2 + 3i is “complex,” while 3i is not. This is incorrect: 2 + 3i and 3i are imaginary numbers (try finding them on a number line!), but both are complex, because both can be written in the form a + bi.

larry-headshotAbout the Author
A former math teacher in Georgia, Larry Coty is now USATestprep’s Math Content Team Leader. He has two daughters and resides in Tucker, GA.

In our changing economy, college entrance isn’t the only path to a successful career. However, high school students must be prepared to enter the workforce lest they flounder in minimum wage jobs. Additionally, a university education doesn’t guarantee career success. Graduates need various skills which they aren’t likely to learn in lecture halls.

Most parents and teachers focus on raising test scores to help high school students enter college. However, even those students who pursue higher education directly after graduation may need to work, and all graduates will eventually be initiated into the job market. If helping your student realize a lucrative career is important to you, you may wonder what else you need to consider.

There are avenues you can pursue to ready your high school student for their future career. Whether they embark on a college education or enter the workforce immediately, the preparation you have initiated will help them realize success.

Future Ready Students

What are future ready students and what is the significance of future readiness? The careers of the future require more than a degree to compete in the global economy. Future readiness is a term used to describe students who are adequately prepared to enter the workforce. There are multiple factors which contribute to your student’s future readiness.

A helpful resource in determining your child’s future readiness is the College and Career Readiness and Success Organizer. This graphic representation of the many factors to future success can help parents and students target weaknesses and create plans to address them. While this infographic has been set up to help schools comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act; it is invaluable to anyone unsure of what career readiness really means.


Every student is an individual, with their own goals and talents. However, here are some key areas you can focus on to help your high school student prepare for the workforce.

Tech Savvy Teens

Most high school students are adept at playing video games, tweeting their thoughts and interacting with the global world through technology. While past generations may have discouraged these skills, there are a multitude of future careers for which technologically savvy students can head.

In fact, more than 7.3 million people were employed in tech jobs in 2016, a growth of 3% from 2015. According to the 2016 “Future of Jobs Report,” many middle management and administrative jobs will disappear by 2020. The report predicts data analysts will be in high demand as changes in the workforce cement. The future of marketing also depends on developments in technology and the needs of global consumers.


Social media coordinators, video game programmers, website optimizers and digital assistants are all careers which require tech-savvy individuals. In a growing tech industry, these are also examples of jobs likely to be in demand over the next few years. However, knowing how to update their Facebook status won’t put your student ahead of the competition. According to a 2014 report, profound technological foundations need to be built and expanded to translate casual technical knowledge into working knowledge.

Working knowledge in technology is increasingly valuable as presented by the Cyberstates 2017 report. The report informs us that while 6.9 million people work in the tech industry, another 7.3 million individuals are employed in tech positions supporting other industries. The resulting 14.2 million workers are somehow involved in technology for their primary source of income. It stands to reason that understanding the tech industry and its components is valuable across the job market.

Excerpt from CompTIA Cyberstates 2017 report.


The future ready student must understand technology, be digitally literate and practice good digital citizenship. Here are some steps to developing your teen’s technological skills with possible career paths in mind.

  • Encourage your student to develop existing tech skills. Enrollment in free online courses via Coursera or participation in school tech projects are great ways to expand your student’s skills.
  • Engage your teen in understanding how to evaluate the authenticity of digital information, use technology to research and communicate, and collaborate with others. While some teens may already be digitally literate, many use social media irresponsibly or cannot discern genuine resources from false facts.
  • Ensure your teen practices good digital citizenship. Key components include safe browsing, password security, and responsible sharing. Make sure your high school student is aware of how their online interactions can affect future job prospects.

Adaptable Workers

Employees who have multiple skill sets and continue to develop themselves professionally are in high demand. Encourage your high school student to pursue lifelong learning on their chosen path. The idea that graduation or earning a degree is the end of education is no longer relevant. Many employers actively search for individuals who can adapt to changing economic needs and are open to continual learning.

Additionally, those employees who demonstrate an ability to adapt to work environment changes are likely to succeed over others. A 2013 report cited capacity to work in a team, fluid intelligence, problem-solving and innovation as influential factors to success in the 21st-century workplace.

Source: November 2013 ETS Research Report, 21st Century Workforce Competencies

Teamwork is critical in many workplaces. Sports, clubs and even gaming teams can demonstrate the importance of teamwork. Employees are also called upon to work autonomously in many roles. Teaching your high school student to be responsible, set their deadlines and be accountable is imperative to future success. Here are a few ways to develop your high school student’s adaptability.

  • Encourage your teen to volunteer or work part-time during summer or holiday breaks.
  • Enroll your student in skill-based courses online or in person. Develop a diverse portfolio of skills which will make them more desirable to employers.
  • Encourage team sports, clubs, etc.
  • Require accountability from your teen. Set savings goals for teens with jobs. Follow up with study and homework assignments to show your teen the value of planning. Reward positive behavior and responsibility from your high schooler.

Emotional Stability

When we mention emotional stability for the future ready student, there are a few ways to measure this. However, it’s important to note that employers want dependable workers who can perform under pressure when necessary.

Experiences gained through volunteer work, part-time jobs and team activities are valuable in creating emotional stability. Talking to your teen about their goals and plans realistically is another important step for parents. Parents who encourage unrealistic aims and expectations are only setting teens up for failure.


The World Economic Forum lists emotional intelligence sixth in their list of Top 10 Skills for workers in 2020. That’s a significant change from 2015 when emotional intelligence didn’t make the list. This change shows how employers are adapting their hiring models and how job seekers must evolve to compete.

Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning for career development is nothing new. In fact, a 1981 report by the National Institute of Education touted the importance of lifelong development to career success. However, the report and subsequent employer investment hinged significantly on experiential learning. In the workplace of today, corporate seminars and classes aren’t enough for the ambitious worker.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 27% of adults surveyed reported holding a non-degree credential. These credentials included postsecondary certificates, certifications, and licenses. The report shows a correlation between continuing education and earnings, employment and advancement in a career.

For example, the earnings of those surveyed directly increased along with the percentage of individuals holding non-degree credentials. Only 19%, of those surveyed to have earned less than $20,000 from 2015 to 2016, held a non-degree credential. Meanwhile, 31% of individuals who made $20,000 to $50,000 in that same period, held a non-degree credential. And, 41% who earned more than $50,000, during that time frame, held at least one non-degree credential.

Excerpt from Adult Training and Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016


Experts agree that the job market is changing. Many common positions may cease to exist in 20 years. A May 2017 NY Times article posited that truck and cab drivers, even accountants would soon be obsolete. Instilling the value of extended learning, outside a classroom, in your high school student can help them achieve future goals.

  • Engage in continued education with your high school student. Take online courses through Coursera or Academic Earth.
  • Encourage your high school student to learn new skills or ideas through open learning opportunities. Courses are available through the The Open University.
  • Incorporate weekly Ted Talks into your teen’s schedule. This informal resource can help them present themselves better to future employers.
  • Linguistic development is a tremendous asset for businesses, have your teen practice or learn a new language with Duolingo.
  • Encourage your high school student to learn coding and other web development skills. Utilize resources like Codecademy, Treehouse, and The Code Player.

Career Preparation

Being ready to compete in the fast-paced job market of tomorrow will take more than extra courses, informational videos, and a stable personality. Everything your teen has done before graduation can be used to make them more attractive to employers. High school students should have some form of work experience before graduation. Volunteer work, internships and part-time jobs all count as valuable experience.


Although work in STEM continues to advance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the fastest growing occupations from 2014 to 2024 will require little or no college education. Wind turbine technicians, for example, are expected to increase by 108% during the projected timeframe. Other occupations like occupational therapy assistants and interpreters are expected to increase by 29 to 40% from 2014 to 2024.

A report released in April of 2017 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted only 69.7% of 2016 high school graduates enrolled in college. That leaves 31.3% of students looking for work. However, only 72.3% of youth not enrolled in college were engaged in the workforce. This disparity is likely due to teens being unprepared for workforce competition.

Interestingly, 72.9% of high school graduates held jobs in 2016. While the figures jumped to 82.5% among youth with some college or associate’s education. Meanwhile, the greatest employment gap remains among individuals without a high school diploma, with only 52.9% engaged in the workforce. To improve these numbers, teens and young adults need to embrace alternative education and other development opportunities.

Volunteer Positions

There are a multitude of volunteer opportunities for the teen looking to add to their portfolio. However, focusing on those experiences which represent the right traits and point towards a future career is a smart move.

For teens who want to branch into the animal industry, there are plenty of opportunities which will demonstrate a love for animals. High school students can walk dogs for the local shelter, walk and feed dogs for senior citizens living alone or make signs for lost dogs through local networks.

High schoolers who want to branch into customer service will find they are better served by work which helps people directly. Suggest your teen organize a toy or food drive, hold a car wash, bake sale or rummage sale and donate the money to charity, or volunteer at a homeless or women’s shelter.

Additionally, teens pursuing employment in a specialized field like technology or accounting can volunteer their services to help the elderly or any non-profit organization. Using their skills to assist a non-profit will prove competence and dedication.


Similarly, some companies may offer internships where your student can gain experience without pay. Often, narrowing down the industries your teen would like to target will help the process. Have your teen find companies which operate in their preferred sector. Then, have them apply to work as an intern.

Although they will likely spend time getting coffee and running errands, they will gain an understanding of how the industry works and hopefully references for future applications.

Work Experience

Never underestimate the value of actual work experience for young adults pursuing careers. Regardless of the industry or position, teens can parlay a good work ethic into valuable references or recommendations. In 2016, retail salespersons, cashiers and food workers still top U.S. occupations in sheer numbers. Consequently, gaining some work experience is a practical step for high school students before entering professional careers.


For the self-starting high school student, running their own business is a huge advantage for future employment. Something as simple as mowing lawns or selling items on eBay for community members can teach your teen about business and gain them professional references.

For high school students who want to experience life before college or a career, consider encouraging them to earn a TEFL certificate and teach English abroad. This path counts as work experience (potentially, also as volunteering) and adds valuable life experience with travel and cultural awareness. Additionally, working while traveling is much more beneficial to your teen’s future career than backpacking aimlessly.


Helping your high school student prepare for a career will require at least some focus on the application and interview process. Remember, even the most qualified individual must prove their worth before getting the job.

Resume Building

Creating a resume or CV is a task which many young adults underestimate. However, the truth is their resume is your teen’s foot in the door. A poorly written or formatted resume will be pushed aside, regardless of qualifications. For that reason, teaching high school students how to create the right sales pitch for each job is important.

Have your high school graduate write multiple resumes or CVs for different job types and review them against the guidelines on WikiHow. Pay particular attention to format and wording when critiquing your teen’s resume. Also, practice writing cover letters and discuss appropriate references.


If you have built a foundation of emotional stability, confidence should be inborn for your teen. However, there are some key steps which will project confidence to prospective employers. Have your teens practice the following guidelines for more successful job searches.

  • Dress for the job you want. Remind your high school student that their appearance does make a difference to employers. If the job requires a suit and tie, they should present themselves dressed accordingly. The same can be said for overdressing, as it shows a lack of knowledge about the position.
  • Make eye contact. Employers judge interviewees on their first impressions. Making eye contact, shaking hands and smiling are all good practices.
  • Talk positively. Young adults should speak positively about their experiences, competencies, and goals.
  • Make positive statements. Teens must communicate clearly about what they want and what they are worth. Help them practice assertive self-assessment. I.e., “I am always on time,” or ” I am an expert in Java programming.”

Digital Awareness

In the information age, everything you post online can be an asset or liability. Make sure your high school student understands that employers may search their social media profiles for clues to their real personality. Teens should know how to set privacy rules for their online accounts and understand how information can be connected to them online.

Practical Preparedness

While you may not employ all of these strategies and tips to prepare your high school student for a career, every teen should have a plan. Graduates entering college should be aware of the markets they will attempt to gain employment in and work towards employability while in school. Those teens entering the workforce without a college education should have a solid outline for finding a stable career.

Regardless of plans, each high school student should develop a career plan which includes the following five steps.

  1. Decide on a career path. Everyone has preferences for the industry in which they’d like to work. Knowing what they want to do (even for now) will help teens achieve future goals.
  2. Understand career expectations. Being realistic in goals is critical to confidence and achievement. Help your high school student research what qualifications their preferred career will require.
  3. Create actionable steps. Once your teen knows the requirements they will need for success, help them create a path. Enrollment in online courses, fine-tuning recreational skills, and choosing continued education resources will help teens solidify their usefulness to employers.
  4. Advertise their assets. Help your high school student create a professional resume and appearance for job hunting. Encourage them to begin looking before graduation and search on a schedule.
  5. Allow for time. Encourage your student to gain work or volunteer experience while searching for the right career opportunity. Don’t let them be discouraged by the slow process of finding the right job.

Involve Your Teen

The evolving job market can be intimidating to new high school graduates, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be prepared. Helping your teen understand the core competencies needed for continued success in the 21st-century workplace is the first step in preparation. Your high school student should be an active partner in achieving their future goals.

Consequently, discussing the ways your high school student can prepare for a career is the first step in any plan. Communicate the importance of making decisions and working towards their goals. Help your high schooler map out their future; don’t depend on covert steering to get them on track. Teenagers must play an active role in their futures, or they won’t be inclined to continue work on the foundation you’ve laid with them.

For parents and teachers who want to prepare high school students for career success, it may be easy to take the reins. However, remember your high schooler will soon be a young adult steering themselves through life. Share this article with them and discuss their goals, skills, and options. Be realistic about plans and encourage them to find the path which works for them.


College and Career Readiness and Success Organizer

Writing Student Resumes


Academic Earth

The Open University

TED Talks


Code Academy


The Code Player

Bureau of Labor Statistics; Career Planning for High Schoolers

International TEFL Academy

Radford University Career Center; Interviewing

WikiHow, 7 Ways to Make a Resume

Any of us around on that day in 2001 remember the emotion and uncertainty of those first few hours. Our students, though, have no such memories. All they know they will come from their parents, from us, from YouTube, or from elsewhere. So what to do? How to convey not just the heartbreak and bewilderment but – most importantly – the facts and the hindsight that time affords? Well, as professional teachers, you’ve found ways. You know what works, and what may need some tweaking. We’ve found a few good sites that may help infuse your plans with some new or different perspectives.

9/11 Memorial & Museum  

As stated on its website, this program is a collaboration between the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the NYC Department of Education, and the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education. Lesson plans are divided by grade level, containing material appropriate to the age of the learners. Teaching guides are included, as well.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility 

MCTSR also has many plans grouped by grade level. Of particular note is “The Second Day,” a video created by a 14 year-old student who lived blocks from Ground Zero.


This National Public Radio article offers less pedagogical insight, but does include perspective about the years after the attack. There are some useful links embedded in the report  – including one to the aforementioned 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Teaching Tolerance

Created on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, these plans were created by a middle school language arts teacher in Ohio. She offers a number of strategies and mindsets to help with teaching the multiple perspectives of the terrorist attacks.

Al Jazeera 

Offering the perspective of those indirectly and unjustly blamed for the attacks, this article provides information that could be used in the teaching of the subject. Though it offers no lesson plans, the first-hand accounts it contains could be fodder for deeper discussions about the reactions of people in the days- and years- after 9/11.

All of these can, in some way, provide teachers with new angles and additional information for teaching this very complex event. We hope this helps in even the smallest of ways.

Photo Credit to: https://www.flickr.com/people/themachinestops 

kirbyAbout the Author
Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and numerous other Social Studies courses in Georgia. Mr. Spivey currently leads USATestprep’s Social Studies content team. He and his wife live in Atlanta. He was helping students with a project on Federalism in the school library when the first plane hit the North Tower.

For a teacher, it is important to bring real-world experiences and events to the students in the classroom.  These teachable moments happen every day.  With access to social media and 24-hour news, it is easy to find information to share and use with your students.  These can range from small, local events to larger, national or international ones.  There is a wonderful teachable moment occurring on August 21, 2017 in all North America…a solar eclipse.

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a celestial event in which the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun.  The sun is much larger than the moon, but they appear to be about the same size as we observe them, due to the sun’s being about 400 times further away from the Earth..  As the moon passes in front of the sun, it casts a shadow on the Earth.  The fully shaded area of the moon’s shadow is known as the umbra.  The partially shaded area from the shadow is the penumbra.  In a total eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun, while in a partial eclipse only part of the sun is blocked. During a total eclipse, observers will witness the solar corona as a bright area circling the moon. This event can last up to 3 hours, with most places being able to see the eclipse for approximately 1 to 3 minutes.  

How often do they occur?

Total eclipses are not as rare as one might believe.  A total solar eclipse occurs approximately every 18 months on some part of the Earth.  What is rare is how often the same location will witness a solar eclipse.  Many areas go centuries between total solar eclipses.  For example, the last time Atlanta, Georgia experienced a total solar eclipse was June 24, 1778, and it will not experience another until May 11, 2078.   The last one that was visible to parts of the United States occurred on February 26, 1978, but this was only witnessed by those in the northwestern states and Canada.  The next total solar eclipse to travel across parts of the Unites States (from Texas to Maine) will occur on April 8, 2024.

Who will be able to see this eclipse on August 21, 2017?

screen-shot-2017-08-07-at-3-16-46-pmOn this day, parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will be able to see at least a partial eclipse, while all of the United States will be able to witness between 75% and 100% of the eclipse.  You must be in the thin path of totality if you want to witness the total solar eclipse. The path of totality is only about 70 miles wide, and it will start on the West Coast and extend to the East Coast.  The path of totality will extend from Lincoln Beach, Oregon (starting at 9:05 am PDT), across the United States to Charleston, South Carolina (starting at 2:48 pm EDT).  Carbondale, Illinois will witness the longest duration where the totality will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

What are some of the teachable moments from the eclipse?

Science: This should be the most obvious one.  This is a great time to discuss the science behind an eclipse.  Use models and flashlights to help, if available.  If not, have the students draw and color pictures.  There are also some good vocabulary terms to introduce (e.g., corona, umbra, penumbra, etc.).  This is also a good time to talk about lunar phases, orbits, and even the solar system in general.

Math: There is lots of good numerical data that can be incorporated into your lessons.  Distances from the Earth to the sun vs. the distance from the Earth to the moon, for example Also, the diameter of the sun, earth, and moon can be used to show how the width of path of totality.  Students can also do graphing of distance vs. time, to help see how fast the eclipse will travel across the United States.  

Language Arts and Social Studies:  Students can write eclipse poems, or such as haikus.  There are books that have “eclipse” as their focus, such as American Eclipse, by David Baron or Mask of the Sun: The Science, History and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses. by John Dvorak.   There are also many myths and superstitions associated with an eclipse.  Anything from dogs trying to steal the sun on orders from a king (Korea), to a frog that eats the sun (Vietnam), and even that the sun and moon are fighting (the Batammaliba, Africa).  See if the students can create and share their own “myth” behind an eclipse.

It is important to remember not to look directly at the eclipse, as it will cause damage to your eyes.  Many schools, museums, and libraries have a limited supply of the special glasses you need to view the eclipse.  You can also purchase them through many online retailers. This is a rare celestial event that may not come by a city near you for many years to come.  Enjoy the day!

About the Author
A former science teacher in Georgia, Dr Michael Tolmich is now USATestprep’s Science Content Team Leader. He lives with his wife and their two sons in Tucker, GA.

As educators, we’re well aware of the need for better technology in the classroom – technology that not only improves learning but also makes our jobs easier. There is a growing list of challenges we face as educators: the endless grading of papers, the search for teaching resources, the need to tailor lessons to each student’s learning style.

As technology continues to change, the role that technology can play in K12 education is also quickly changing.  We’re not talking about replacing teachers with robots!  We are looking at how educators can leverage technology to better support our teaching efforts. Here are five methods educators are using, nationwide, to improve student achievement while reducing the time demands placed on themselves.

1. Instant Grading and Feedbackscreen-shot-2017-07-07-at-3-14-51-pm
Many teachers are finding the ability to autograde assignments on a curriculum practice website to be one of the most useful enhancements made possible with technology.  Hand-grading is antiquated, since most practice and curriculum platforms can assess multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and many other question types.  Alongside the score, students can also receive an explanation as to why their answer was marked incorrect. This immediate feedback is crucial in the learning process, as these students are accustomed to a fast-paced society that provides instant gratification. Instant grading and feedback can be done on USATestprep’s platform.

2. Self-Directed Learning
Students learn at different rates, with various learning styles, and in a variety of settings. Their backgrounds and level of required support also vary.  Online learning platforms allow each student to interact with the content at his or her own level and speed.  Many websites, including USATestprep, offer assistive technology features to increase student achievement, such as word prediction, screen readers, closed captioning, and highlighting tools.  Online content is readily available at all times, which is great for students who need extra time to complete assignments or those who want extra practice.  

3. Assessment-Based Differentiation
Facilitating formal and informal assessments on a web-based platform can provide educators and students with results and easy-to-use data upon completion.  These results help evaluate student mastery of the standards and domains, and allow students and teachers to develop plans of action and remediation.  Many educators then choose to assign students practice work to strengthen their foundations within the standards.  Differentiation is easily implemented on sites such as USATestprep, by providing one-click entry to resources specifically designed to focus on the subject matter.

4. Supplemental Instructional Resources
As educators, we are constantly adding resources to our toolboxes.  Websites such as Pinterest and internet searches can flood our minds with sample lesson ideas and downloadable templates for the classroom.  Often, we can waste time recreating the wheel when it has already been made for us.  There are websites designed to be a one-stop shop for us.  These sites include resources that supplement instruction throughout the learning cycle.  Look for websites that include videos that can be used for introducing a concept, vocabulary terms that can reinforce the lesson, performance tasks that encourage the students to interact with the content, and an open test bank of questions to build assessments. To see how these practice items can work in your lessons, request a live demo.

“Even the students that struggle the most find something that catches their attention in USATestprep.”

screen-shot-2017-07-07-at-2-02-48-pm5. Engaging Content
While many websites may provide resources for the teachers, we must also consider the level of engagement for students.  Today’s students need stimulating colors and graphics, interactive content, lively videos, and real-world application questions. Carla Devereaux, at Babb Middle School, has found that, “Even the students that struggle the most find something that catches their attention in USATestprep.” Some websites offer a token-based reward system for games that allow students to take brain breaks between questions or assignments. Other sites may provide content-based games that allow students to progress as they continue answering questions correctly.  Students can also use technology to study abroad in the global classroom with students in other parts of the world, via video or streaming sites.

Want to Do More with Technology?
Go Here to Request Your Live Demo of USATestprep

by Beth Kotz

The typical high school curriculum covers a tremendous breadth of information on a wide range of topics, yet personal finance is rarely among them.

Finance and banking conceptConsidering many high school students will soon be college students, ready to take on student loans, open bank accounts and learn how credit cards work, perhaps it’s time that money management takes on a more prominent role in high school classes.
If you’d like to incorporate personal finance into your lesson plans, here are seven free resources to help get you started.

Practical Money Skills

It’s no secret that students learn more effectively when they’re excited and engaged with a lesson, and the Practical Money Skills website tries to boost engagement by wrapping its lessons into slick, interactive games that cater to students of all ages. All the basic skills of financial literacy are covered, from simple money management to good debt practices, and the site also features additional educational materials and resources. Grade-appropriate lesson plans are also available for teachers.


The brainchild of Brian Page, a nationally-recognized personal finance and economics teacher from Ohio, FinEdChat is an effort to boost engagement and encourage financial literacy education. The centerpiece of this effort is the FinEdChat blog, which features an abundance of useful information and resources for teachers interested in incorporating financial education into their lesson plans. Page also operates the informative FinEdChat Twitter account, and the “#FinEdChat” hashtag makes it easy to keep track of the latest developments in financial education at the high school level.


Sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission, OnGuardOnline offers a powerful toolkit aimed at educating students on how to protect themselves and their sensitive information online. Students can play games that teach them how to recognize phishing attacks, how to respond to a hacking attempt and how to differentiate between what information is and isn’t safe to share. The site also provides educators with a variety of games, lesson plans and other tools to use in the classroom and share with parents and the community at large.

Budget Challenge

Few things are more important to a child’s financial future than learning how to create and manage a budget. As an educator, you can use budget simulators to teach the importance of creating a budget, balancing a checkbook and handling other important duties in a fun and engaging way. Budget Challenge offers a comprehensive simulation that accomplishes just that, and it even includes a mobile app so students can stay engaged on the go.

Financial Literacy Month

Created by a group of financial experts at Money Management International, Financial Literacy Month is a 30-day program intended to give people of all ages the tools needed to lead a successful financial life. Although Financial Literacy Month officially begins on April 1, the 30-step program can be incorporated into a curriculum at any time of the year to serve as a roadmap to financial literacy. The initiative also includes an assortment of worksheets, educational materials and even a personalized certificate to keep students motivated.

Finance in the Classroom 

Though originally created by the Utah State Board of Education, Finance in the Classroom is a versatile resource for teachers, students and parents across the country. The website provides an assortment of course outlines, activities, lesson plans and other resources for teachers as well as interactive games and other tools for students from kindergarten through grade 12. For teachers in Utah, the platform also includes professional development tools, boot camps and other activities.

Online Personal Finance Games 

Surveys have shown that more than 91 percent of children play video games, making games an exceptionally useful platform for reaching students and engaging them directly with their lessons. Personal finance games like those from Commonwealth, Gen i Revolution and Practical Money Skills turn games into powerful teaching tools to educate students on everything from basic accounting and budgeting to investment and retirement savings.

Though an increasing number of states are beginning to require some form of personal finance education at the high school level, many high schoolers still graduate without having obtained the skills necessary to manage their finances. Educators are in a great position to make an impact and teach financial literacy, but they need the tools to do it effectively. The free resources above provide exactly that, offering games, activities, plans and other information that will engage students and leave them far better equipped to handle the world that awaits after graduation.

Beth Kotz is a contributing writer to Credit.com. She specializes in covering financial advice for female entrepreneurs, college students and recent graduates. She earned a BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where she continues to live and work.

For those of a certain age, a box of 64 crayons- the one with the sharpener in the back- represented the apex of childhood happiness. While slogging through days of teaching my 9th graders about Medieval Europe, I’d often long for the carefree days of just coloring away in my Batman activity book as a kid on my grandmother’s back porch. But childish pursuits are behind us and our high school scholars.

Well of course they aren’t.

One school in California is finding the childhood pastime to be a great way to relieve stress in for students, particularly the high-achieving ones. A recent article in School Library Journal detailed Valencia High School’s efforts to reduce student- and staff- anxiety through the simple act of coloring. According to Joy Millam, the school’s teacher librarian, coloring relaxes students because it “requires single-minded focus, while its structure makes it soothing.”

This should remind all of us to take stock of the stress levels of our kids. The demands on them are great, often greater than they let on or than we know. Academics, athletics, extracurriculars, relationships, all of these pile on kids who often lack the coping tools for these burdens.  Finding a productive way to help them vent those tensions- whether through coloring or some other activity- could not only help them focus, it could benefit the entire learning environment at your school.

For the whole story on Valencia High School, check out the article here.

kirbyAbout the Author
Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and numerous other Social Studies courses in Georgia. Mr Spivey currently leads USATestprep’s Social Studies content team. He and his wife live in Atlanta and own several coloring books.

If you’re up against the clock, you may feel as though planning your essay is a waste of time. Surely it’s better just to sit down and get writing? Not so. If you plan an assignment properly, you can remove a lot of the pressure. After all, you’ll have the roadmap to your work laid out in front of you. Here’s 7 tips to help you get the best structure for your assignment.

  1. Plan your paragraphs

Every paragraph in your essay should have a clear point to it. Write a clear topic sentence for every paragraph you plan to include, and think about how you’re going to describe your ideas. Will you compare and contrast ideas, list sources, or present a solution to the problem?

  1. Link your paragraphs together

Once you know how your paragraphs are going to read, you need to know how to link them together. You want them to all work together in order to back up your main argument. Look for a theme in your plans so far, as you can use that in your links. Use linking words such as ‘Similarly’, ‘Consequently’, and ‘Outcomes included’ to show you’re about to move onto a new idea.

  1. Use your word count as a guide

Your word count will be a good indication of how much detail you’re expected to go into. 500 words will be an overview of a topic, 1000 words will want at least one idea fully explored, and 2000 words will need much more dissection of the topic at hand. If you need a hand keeping to your word count, use a tool to keep you on task.

  1. Keep on top of your grammar

When planning your assignment, you’ll need to make sure that you can get your grammar spot on. Good grammar is the basis of good writing, so it needs to be perfect.

  1. Make sure you’re citing correctly

In the planning stages, you’ll be bringing all of your research together, so you can start to formulate an argument. Before you do so, make sure you have all of the right citations for your work. If you fail to include them, you could lose marks or even be accused of plagiarism. Make sure that you have the right citations by using a tool.

  1. Get the formatting right

Every university and every professor will have slightly different requirements for formatting, so read your assignment brief to find out what you need to do. This can help inform you of the layout of your essay.

  1. Use the ‘three parts’ rule

Every good assignment will have a three-part structure. There will be an introduction, the main body of your argument, and the conclusion. Essentially you’re telling the reader what you’re about to say, then you’re saying what you have to say, and then you’re reiterating what you said. If you have these three parts, you can be sure that you’re covering all the main points.

If you follow these tips, you can get an excellent essay plan written. Then, all you have to do is follow it to get the best essay written. A good plan can save a lot of stress and hassle when you’re writing, so give it a try.

mary-walton-200x200Mary Walton is an online tutor and proofreader from Santa Monica. She lived in Australia for 10 years and gained her degree in creative writing at the University of Melbourne. She’s worked with people of all ages as they’ve made their way through their educational careers, from starting to school to graduating from university.