4 Ideas for Effective Test Prep That Feels Fun!

May 15, 2024

With the end of the school year in sight, there’s a lot on you and your students’ minds: end-of-year activities and trips, summer break, and of course, final exams. So, how can you help students feel prepared for final exams without succumbing to the monotony of test prep that can creep in at the end of the year? Making test prep effective while also fun ensures your students have the opportunity to review key content, but also engage with their classroom community and celebrate all that they’ve learned. 

Here at Fishtank Learning, we know that the best way to prepare your students for end-of-year exams is to ensure they are internalizing and reviewing material continuously over the course of the school year. However, because we also know that most teachers don’t live in an ideal world that would allow them to do this, we recommend using engaging activities that require students to think deeply and make connections across content—like those outlined below.

We’ll dive into four math review games you can bring to your classroom with the help of Fishtank Math, and explore how to focus your review efforts effectively based on your grade level standards.


Understanding Standards: Major Clusters, Supporting Clusters, and Additional Clusters

When it's time to review for end-of-year exams, it’s important to know how standards are grouped so you can most effectively target your time. In each grade’s outlined standards, there are Major Clusters, Supporting Clusters, and Additional Clusters. These classifications help teachers recognize the content that will most heavily impact a students’ success with grade level content and build the foundation for future learning. However, even standards that are tagged as Additional Clusters should be addressed to ensure students do not leave your classroom with learning gaps. Moreover, one unit's Supporting and Additional Clusters may be important foundational standards for future work. So, even if the content isn't the main focus for your students right now, it may be the key to unlocking success with future content. 

Every unit page within Fishtank Math lists the relevant Common Core Standards and illustrates which standards are part of each cluster. These designations can help you decide how to structure your review sessions to focus on the most critical content your students need. See an example from Fishtank’s 5th Grade unit Multiplication and Division of Decimals below.

Common Core StandardsOnce you determine the priority standards and skills your student should focus on, you can then decide how to review those things in engaging ways. The activities below help you make math review fun for students in both whole group and small group settings.


Whole Class Activities



Over the course of the school year, you’ve introduced your students to tons of new words, and when it’s time for students to answer open response questions, you hope they remember to use them! To help ensure students refresh their memories for relevant vocabulary, you can play password as a whole class. 

What You Need

  • A whiteboard and marker
  • List of vocabulary words to review


Select one student to be the first guesser and have them come to the front of the room. The guesser faces the rest of the class while the teacher writes a vocabulary word on the board behind them. Then, the guesser calls on students one at a time to give one word hints to the secret word written on the board. Students offering hints can build upon the hint before them, but can only add one word at a time. 

When the guesser figures out the word, they say it outloud and give the role of guesser to another student. You as the teacher can decide how the next student is selected, but it can be helpful to have the student that offered the last hint become the next guesser.



A classic way to engage the entire class in review is through Jeopardy. Many students already know how to play and enjoy the opportunity to work on a team as they answer questions from a variety of topics. While this activity can take a bit of pre-planning, it is well worth it! Students will be highly engaged, have the chance to see many different question types, and enjoy some healthy competition. 

What You Need


Before beginning a Jeopardy style review game in class, you’ll need to create the questions and categories using a Jeopardy template. Once you’ve completed that, you are almost ready to begin. You want to split students up into small groups and provide each group with a stack of paper or a mini-white board to work on. Begin the game by selecting the first question for students to answer. When a team is ready to answer, every student on the team should raise their hands. You then can call on any student from that team to answer and explain their solution. 

If the student is correct, they earn points for their team. If the student is incorrect, the next team to have all hands raised have the chance to answer for points instead.

Fishtank's Problem Sets and Assessments from units across the year offer tons of questions you can use to create your Jeopardy board. 


Small Group Activities

While whole group activities are a good way to review and have fun as a community, small group activities like partner games can be beneficial when students need a little more time and space to think through topics or need additional support from an adult in the room. Small group activities also allow for more differentiation as teachers can ensure students are engaging with the type of content they most need to work on. 


Odd One Out

This activity can be more fully explored through Fishtank’s Fluency Activity Library, accessible with a Fishtank Plus account. The library includes fluency activities to address standards across grades 3 through 6.

What You Need


Divide students up into partners and provide 2 sets of digit cards to each pair. Assign one student as player A and one student as player B. Player A picks two digit cards and multiplies them together. The product is the number of points that player earns. The digit cards are shuffled back into the deck. Player A can continue to pick two cards, find their product, and add the product to their points for that turn. But, if the product is odd, Player A loses all banked points from that turn and their turn ends. Thus, while the game targets the skill of fluently multiplying and dividing within 100, players also develop and use an understanding of the pattern of even and odd products to determine a comfortable level of risk of continuing a turn. Player B takes their turn when Player A ends their turn (or Player A has an odd product), and follows the same rules as Player A. Players continue playing. The objective is to reach a total of 1,000.


Order Up

This activity works well in centers or as a partner activity to help students practice ordering decimals, an important skill for 4th and 5th grade students. As students are working, you can circulate and offer support when students need it to reinforce key concepts. Like Odd One Out, this activity can be more fully explored through Fishtank’s Fluency Activity Library where multiple variations are outlined.

What You Need


Each pair/small group of students should be given 3 sets of digit cards and each student should be given a game board. On the top and bottom lines of the game board, every student will write the highest and lowest values that you as the teacher choose. To begin playing, students take turns selecting 4 number cards that they use to create a four-digit decimal number that falls between the established highest and lowest values and writes the number on one line of their game board. The cards are then shuffled back into the deck. If the cards cannot be arranged to create a number that fills an empty line, the player does not write down a number. Whoever fills up their lines first is the winner.

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