"Out of the Box" Math Assessment!

I’ve been doing this teaching thing for a long time…and one thing I know is that I am always on a quest to find out what students know and don’t know.  I use exit slips. I give summative assessments.  I watch my students carefully and coach as needed.  I just always feel like something is missing…like there is too much “fill in the blank”.  On a whim, I decided to have my students create their own assessment a while ago to “show what they know” about area and perimeter.  It was a game changer for me—and my students.  Interested?  Keep reading!

So one day I decided to simply ASK them what they knew.  I typed up a simple form and told them it was a “demand prompt”—for math!  They have been given demand prompts in writing, but not in math.   They looked a little confused, so I explained a little more.

I told them that I felt bad that I didn't give them enough flexibility and creative time to show me the DEPTH of their understanding.  After all, when we give an exit slip, we have certain things we are looking for, don’t we?  What if our students know MORE than that or have discovered new insights that our assessments don’t expose?  I knew my students could show me more if I gave them the chance.  And boy did they ever!  Check out these pictures to see more of how this all unfolded!

This is meant to be a low prep, easy to do assessment task.  I put out lined notebook paper, graph paper, construction paper, rulers, and any other supplies I think will help.  If it’s relevant (like for geometry) I may set out protractors or other supplies that I think will help my students. 

My students love to make posters on 12x18 construction paper, but some students make booklets by stapling paper together.  Some make their displays very visual while others do it in a more narrative fashion.  If you have access to technology, feel free to let students use that as well.  Get creative—and encourage your students to do the same!  I gave my students 30 minutes, but if you don’t think that is the right amount for your group—change it!  Some topics might require more time than others, so modify as you see fit.

For me, the most important thing was to get my students reflecting on their own work.  We did some brainstorming about how teachers can grade (We use a 4, 3, 2, 1 scale).  Students had all sorts of interesting ideas about grading—and we had a great talk about the pros and cons of each—and of grading in general! We talked at length about why we assess and grade student work, and I made sure
that they understood that it is all about making sure everyone is learning—and so I know what to do next as a teacher.

We all have assessments that either our district mandates or that come with our textbooks, but I really recommend using something "out of the box" to collect additional information about how your students learn, process topics, organize their work, and explain their thinking.  Does this sound familiar?  That’s right!  The Standards for Mathematical Practice!  This activity was a great way to look for how students were modeling math, working precisely, looking for patterns, explaining their thinking, using reasoning, and more!  No matter how (or IF!) you grade your students, these “demand tasks” can help you see your students’ understanding in a very new way.

Try it!  See what your students can do.  I have turned this into a ready-to-use product that is aligned to the CCSS and most other rigorous curricula for grades 3 and 4...and grade 5 should be available this week!  Click the images below if you want to see more.  Thanks for stopping by!