What’s your take on math assessments? I was not a fan of our curriculum’s chapter tests. Every question was procedure based, required zero higher level thinking, and was usually multiple choice. During my masters I took a class on math assessment and fell in love with all of the ways I could utilize assessments to increase learning WITHOUT tons of prep time. Here are my 3 favorite ways to use math assessments:
#1 Less is More
Students don’t need to solve 20 problems for us to see if they can do that skill. Instead, I have my kids do 4-6 problems and then ask them for explanations or to expand on their thinking. For example, when I assess my 2nd graders on addition with regrouping I have them solve a few problems. At the bottom is a prompt that asks them if they needed to regroup on the last problem and why or why not. This lets me see their ability to do the skill as well as their understanding of the concept of regrouping. Adding in those explanation pieces on my assessments has given me a better understanding of my students and lets me know if I need to reinforce any key concepts before moving on to the next chapter.
#2 Journals for the Win
It’s so easy to get into the habit of marking problems right or wrong on a math test, putting a grade in the gradebook, and then moving on. That used to be me. This is where math journals and discussions have become my saving grace. A simple prompt such as, “How can you solve 8+6?” can be so powerful. Sure, maybe all of my students can figure out it’s 14, but there’s a huge difference between counting on their fingers to get 14 and using mental addition strategies. By having my students journal about how they solve math facts I can then decide what strategies my students know and which once I need to teach them in order to build their fluency. Moral of the story: Don’t ever underestimate the power of one simple question…it can give you TONS of insight into your students’ abilities and help you decide what lessons you need to teach. Snag some free journals to get your started.
#3 Use it or Lose it
What’s the point of getting all of that great data if it just sits there? I knew I needed to come up with a system to better utilize my assessments. I’ll use journal prompts as a pre-assessment before starting a new skill to see where my students are at and make my leveled guided math groups. Throughout the unit I use journals and class discussions to gauge where students are at in understanding the key concepts. Then, at the end, I’ll use a less is more summative assessment. This data then helps me form intervention groups for reteaching or more practice.
How will you utilize math assessments to increase learning? I hope you are able to take away some ideas on how to change your chapter tests to gain a better understanding of your students’ math abilities. I’d love to hear what you come up with…don’t ever hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat more! Click to read more on easy yet effective math assessments.