Creating Effective Math Assessments
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Creating Effective Math Assessments
Ideas and suggestions for creating and implementing math assessments in the elementary classroom
Curated by Lacey Smith
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Using Good Questions and Tasks to Assess Student Understanding

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I really appreciated the questioning strategies that were included in this document. This article provided an overview of the purpose of formative assessment and the types of questions teachers should be asking their students in order to determine what our students understand and to reveal any misconceptions students may have. Within one of the example math assessment questions provided (the one with the snap cubes), students were asked to solve the problem in two different ways and to share their thinking with someone sitting nearby. I really like using this question as an informal assessment when I am teaching math during my placement. Having students demonstrate their understanding of a problem in two different ways shows us as the teacher that the student has a conceptual understanding of the problem, versus having just memorized the steps they need to employ for a specific problem. I also like that NCTM encourages teachers to have students share their thinking with a partner. This is also something I try to employ in my classroom, because when students are doing so, I am able to walk around to monitor their conversations and I am able to watch them explain things to other classmates who may have struggled at first. I think these strategies are great to employ when trying to create effective math assessments for students. 

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Effective Teachers Use Appropriate Tasks on Assessments

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One way to better format math assessments is to create more tasks and learning experience that "allow students to do original thinking about important mathematical concepts and relationships." Rather than creating assessments for students that are simply fill in the blank or circling the correct answer, assessments can be actual tasks that students can complete that demonstrate their understanding and application of the skills and strategies they have been learning in math. This reminded me of the open-ended problem solving activities we create to implement with our students. We are showing our students how to take what we are learning in math and applying it to a real-world scenario. I appreciated this article because it also explained how it is important for teachers to create these types of tasks on their tests and assessments because when students enter the workforce, they will witness that doing mathematics is more than just providing the right answer- they must be able to apply mathematics in everyday settings. 

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Five "Key Strategies" for Effective Formative Assessment

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Something that I have found is often difficult is coming up with assessments that will effectively capture and measure student knowledge and performance in the classroom. As mentioned in this article, one important strategy for teachers to utilize is to provide feedback that moves learning forward. For example, teachers can provide oral feedback to students that encourages students to engage cognitively in their work. Rather that simply giving students the correct answer on a problem they are struggling with, provide students with some guidance that steers them in the right direction. One way I could incorporate this in my classroom is when I am checking math papers, I can tell students how many problems they got incorrect (but not identify which ones they are) and ask them to find them and correct them. This lets students know that they were still able to get a majority of the problems correct, but there are still some small errors they need to fix. This type of assessment allows for teachers to see how well students are doing independently, and then providing such feedback gives students another chance to correct their work on their own with minimal to no assistance.

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Creating Better Student Assessments

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This article focused on a new type of assessment created- LIMA (Learning Indicators for Math Achievement). I really liked how this assessment was created because it focuses on big ideas, critical skills, and problem solving. Rather than giving students an assortment of multiple-choice questions to try to assess student knowledge in mathematics, teachers who use the LIMA assessment are able to witness students who are taking skills and applying them to real scenarios. I think this would be beneficial for many students, because with the push in Common Core for real-world applications, students need to be able to apply skills in a variety of scenarios, and that means more than simply filling in a letter on a bubble sheet. The LIMA is also given three times to measure the beginning of the year, mid-year, and end-of-the-year skills and problem solving. This means that teachers are able to use this test to see how students have grown and progressed throughout the year, which is important to see. 

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Asking Effective Questions: Provoking Student Thinking on Math Assessments

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When creating math assessments for students, I have learned that it is important to consider the types of questions and the wording used for such questions on different types of assessments. One example from the article "Asking Effective Questions" that I really liked is implementing questions that ask students to determine how they would explain their work or ideas to someone else. For example, if students are given a math problem to solve, such as finding the area of a rectangle, a follow up question could be to ask students how they would explain their answer to a student in a younger grade. This type of question encourages students to reflect on how they came to their answer in thei first place and has them use reasoning skills to explain their ideas and understanding to other students. This is a great way to determine if students understand the concepts and reasonings behind different math problems, rather then simply just knowing the answer to a problem. The types of questions I saw in this article are ones that I definitely hope to incorporate in my future assessments. 

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