PARCC Prep: Getting to Know The PARCC Equation Editor

An important math tool that students will need to know for the PARCC test is the Equation Editor. According to PARCC developers, the equation editor:

“allows students to build equations to show solutions to test questions. It consists of numbers and mathematical functions (add, subtract, multiply, divide, and others). There are three versions: one each for grades 3-5, grades 6-8, and high school, each with more functions.”

Let’s begin by taking a look at the parcc equation editor for Grades 3-5.

At this grade level, students will be able to access the following buttons that are probably already familiar to them:

• Operations


• Greater than / less than

Greate or Lesser

• Equal sign

Equal sign

• Dollar sign

Dollar sign

However, there are some buttons and symbols that may not be as familiar to students. These include:

• Fraction and mixed number signs


• Parentheses and brackets


• The “more symbols” button (to reveal even more symbols to use in responding to questions)

more symbols

• Arrow keys: allows students to “move around equations and to move out of fractions or parentheses”

arrow keys

• Arrows to undo and redo/restore (different from the arrows above)


• Trash can icon to “clear all”


Important Note: If a student wants to delete a sign (for example, the “plus” sign), he or she must first “delete one of the numbers it acts on”. In the tutorial, the example 2 + 3 is given. In this case, the student could delete the “3” before deleting the “+” sign.
(from PDF document for grades 3-5)

Students in Grades 6-8 will have the aforementioned buttons available to them, along with these additions:

• Blue arrows: these allow you to “open and close menus”. For example, if a student clicks on the blue arrow below the box that displays +, -, X, etc., more options will appear, such as inequality signs, pi, absolute value, etc.

Blue Arrow
blue arrow 3
Blue button 4

• When students click on the “Relations” button, they will see additional symbols for congruence, inequalities, etc.


• When students click on the “Geometry” button, they may select among parallel signs, perpendicular signs, angle signs, the triangle sign, etc.


(from PDF document for grades 6-8)

Certainly, taking time to show students what the parcc equation editor looks like – and giving them time to experiment with it – is one of the best ways to increase students’ familiarity with this technology. To give your class additional opportunities to take practice tests online, visit:

PARCC Test Practice: Online Resources for Educators

And for more practice, you can take advantage of Lumos Learning’s StepUp. This provides Two practice tests and give students additional opportunities to answer PARCC-like questions, along with getting used to the test format, directions, and simply taking a computerized test.

Of course, one of the best ways to prepare students is to use these symbols as part of your daily instruction. This way, students will be accustomed to seeing and using the signs regularly. Coupled with practice sessions on the computer, your students should feel confident and competent when it comes to utilizing the equation editor on the PARCC test.


Julie Lyons

4 thoughts on “PARCC Prep: Getting to Know The PARCC Equation Editor

  1. Pingback: PARCC Prep: Getting to Know The Equation Editor | Think Educative

  2. I agree, as a tech teacher, we are going to have quite a few children that have a hard time using these symbols. Especially when they have had absolutely no way to practice them all year. I’ve been worked enough about how to get them to think and type at the same time. Students, sort of, know how to write, but only with a pencil in their hand. When you throw in typing and processing question…ahhh what a mess. These math keys just throw a whole other wrench in the testing difficulties. I can see why so many parents are opting out!

  3. I love teaching math and my kids generally do well on state level tests. I am NOT excited about testing math on a computer. I am even less excited when it involves new keys for the kids. I have kids who are really slow from lack of keyboarding practice. They are one finger hunt and peck kids but can do math with a pencil or a pencil to get a multiple choice answer. Not a happy camper here in WI.

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