MCA Online Item Samplers and Teacher Guides

Ann Page –
Angela Hochstetter –
MDE – Math Content Specialists for Statewide Testing

Item samplers and teacher guides are available as resources for MCA preparation. The teacher guides give additional information about each sampler item and may be used in conjunction with the samplers. (The online location for both of these is at the end of this post.)

The item samplers provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learn from the online student tutorial in a practice setting. These item samplers are aligned to the Minnesota Academic Standards but contain fewer items than an actual, full-length test. They are provided to help students and teachers become familiar with the test, but they are not practice tests and are not suitable for predicting how students will perform on the assessments.

How can teachers best use the Item Samplers?

Teachers know best how to utilize the item samplers and teacher guides for their classrooms. Here are two additional ideas on ways to use them.

Distractor Analysis

shot3Select 4–5 questions to give the students. Include the correct answers. Have the students analyze each wrong option and give a mathematical reason why a student may give it as an answer. Consider starting one or two grade levels below so the focus is on how to explain what they know. Then move up to grade level. All of the rationales are given in the Teacher Guides.


Class Discussion Topics

shot2Many of the items provide an excellent opportunity for discussions. Consider the following questions for starting or adding to a class or group discussion:

  • Without looking at the answer options, what would be an obvious wrong answer? Explain how you know. (It can be just as challenging to explain why seemingly farfetched answers such as 1,000,000 are wrong.)
  • For calculation questions: Without actually doing the math, estimate between which two numbers the answer must fall. How can we make the range smaller without calculating?
  • Describe two or three different methods to find the answer.
  • What is it about this item that stands out? Why do you think it stands out to you?
  • For non-multiple choice items: What is challenging about answering this question? If you designed your own interactive technology to ask this or a similar question, what would it look like?

Location of the teacher guides (direct link):

Location of the Online Item Samplers (direct link):

If the links do not work, go to, then select Minnesota. Under “Quick Links”, select “Item samplers.”

  • For the teacher guides navigate to the desired grade on this page.
  • For the online item samplers select the “Online Item Samplers” tab and then navigate to the desired grade. (See image below.)


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