Category Archives: assessment

Assessing the Concept of Addition


Teaching students to add appears to be a very linear, skill driven endeavor. Hidden in this is the concept of what it means to add and how to assess this conceptual understanding. Here is an approach to address and assess the concept of adding.

In the photo above a student is prompted to pull both groups into 1 pile (see photo below). The word, add, is not addressed. The symbol is absolutely not introduced yet.


Once the student has demonstrated a consistent performance of pulling the groups into 1 pile (addition) two other tasks are introduced, taking away and sorting. The student is presented each of these individually (field of 1).



After showing consistent performance in demonstration of these skills, the skills are then presented using a generalized mat (see below).

generalized mat

Then two skills as pairs. First  “pulling together” and “taking away” are randomly prompted individually, e.g. “pull into a pile” using the generalized mat above. Then combine “pull together” and “sort” then “sort” and “take away.” Finally all 3 are randomly chosen (field of 3).


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Targeting Gaps in a Math Topic

percent vs monetary value

A key to intervention for math is to drill down into a topic to see which step is causing a student problems. This is a big reason why ongoing progress monitoring is vital to intervention.

In this case a student in a previous session had occasionally added the percent to the dollar amounts – the step that was problematic. He conceptually wasn’t thinking about the meaning of the values but just added or subtracted numbers he saw. In response the next session focused on helping the student discern between the percent rate and the monetary values.

In the photo above is the work of the student as review of the previous session. This was followed by highlighting the dollar amounts in green and the percent amount in yellow. It was emphasized that the yellow was not used in the calculation in the bottom row.

This was followed by the task seen in the photo below. The focus is strictly on the one step that was problematic. This was followed by work on (2nd photo below) with the student writing in values on the handout shown on the  bottom photo to help the student focus on this tep

percent vs monetary value 2

percent vs monetary value 3

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Assessment of a Math Objective

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List all the steps for the objective. Use this table (above) as a pretest to identify gaps.

Provide instruction on the gaps. In the photo below I used color coding to show what to multiply and scaffolding to align the digits in ONES and TENS place. NOTE: I provide the problems with some steps already completed to focus on the steps for which gaps were identified.

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After providing instruction on the steps with gaps data is collected on mastery of these isolated steps. NOTE: The problems are identical in nature to the gaps and the problems used in instruction. (Link to the data sheets – WORD so you can revise.)

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Pretest on Money and Spending for Consumer Math

pretest money

The photo shows a pre-posttest for a student in a consumer math class. In the course I taught we would conduct a pretest at the start of the class to determine which of the related skills a student lacked mastery. The course focus for this student was on the identified skills – highly individualized. The assessment also provided present level of performance information, allowed us to monitor progress and to evaluate instruction.

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Making Formative Assessment Formative

strategic practice follow up to FA

The photo at the top shows a portion of a cumulative formative assessment for a student in algebra 1 part 1. At the bottom is a handout with problems aligned with the formative assessment. A copy is made for each student and the student is assigned (using highlighting) problems on this follow up handout that are aligned with problems missed on the assessment. This allows for differentiation and formative assessment for the whole class – not an easy task.  (Note: in this post the samples are not for the same student.)

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Assessment for General Curriculum Math Topics

In special education there is a tool called a task analysis. It is a formal approach of identifying the steps taken to demonstrate mastery of a skill. For example, putting on shoes with Velcro straps involves the following steps: get shoes, sit on chair, match shoes with feet (right to right), insert foot into respective shoe etc.

I have applied this approach to general curriculum math topics from counting money to solving using the Quadratic Formula. Below are the iterations of my task analysis for the objective count TENs, a FIVE and ONES (dollar bills) to pay a given price. The first shows a rough draft of notes I took as I actually counted out the money, going through each little step. The second shows the steps written out on a task analysis table I created. The third shows the final, typed version.

paying price with bills task analysis rough draft

paying price with bills task analysis rough draft on table

paying price with bills task analysis final

The table is used for assessment, collection of data and progress monitoring. The steps that are problematic can be targeted individually, e.g. skip counting by 10s.

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