The Power of Formative Assessment in the Age of Common Core

Originally posted on LinkedIn

Recently I was asked for supplemental instruction for an Algebra 2 student. The person asking is a college professor who has a friend who has daughters in high school, and since “all math is the same” of course assumed this friend knew exactly what was studied in Algebra II… right? While the CCSS in Appendix A do suggest what topics be included in the different levels of mathematics, they are not an exact specification and many states, then districts, and often local schools will tailor the breadth and depth of content students receive.

Products like CC Quest – formative assessment app for Math and ELA – do a great job showing what learning needs students have so that teachers can target their instruction better. (Disclaimer: I work for OpenEd, so of course also recommend the Premium product which has more assessments per standard for a more complete picture of a students needs.) Without rapid and even non-intrusive formative assessment and a way of keeping track via a mastery chart, teachers cannot know for certain where students are at – aside from guessing! Research shows that formative assessment helps students themselves know what they are struggling with and how to do better, which is what we want – more student motivation and less teacher monitoring of knowledge.

What I told my friend was to have the kids start off with CC Quest so he could see what topics they knew well and which ones they didn’t. Then, move on to using perhaps the Problem-Based curriculum maps from Geoff Krall’s Emergent Mathematics to use rich tasks designed to stimulate thinking from multiple standards to help kids APPLY the skills they have learned. I also recommended breaking up these activities with some interesting math problem solving scenarios from estimation180 and visualpatterns.org for great algebra stimulation.

A simple chart is below if you’ll excuse my Microsoft Word skills.

There is no one magic bullet for education. Yet, technology-based formative assessment paired with teacher knowledge of inquiry-based tasks and valuable classroom discussion hold the keys to addressing the 8 mathematics practices essential to our childrens math education.

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