Entry #5 – Letter To A Friend

Dear Jess,

In one of my Math Education classes I am enrolled in this semester we were asked to watch two short videos that dealt with different assessment strategies used in mathematics. Since we always had each other to learn from and grow off of during our high school math with Mr. T I wanted to share these with you too! I’ll share my short write up of them both, highlighting what I learned from them and why I felt they were so important to pass onto you.

The first video was called Teacher Insights 9-12 – program 10, where different teachers shared the assessment strategies they use frequently in their classrooms and providing justification for such. The main proposal of this video began by stating that we need our students to go beyond memorization in mathematics and become critical thinkers. Well, realistically they are not going to switch gears on their own, they are depending on us to bring that attribute out in them, thus our job is to evolve our evaluations and assessments to meet these needs. Different assessments mentioned throughout ranged from group work, oral reports, class response/participation, tool kits, self-assessment, peer-evaluation, presentations, and portfolios. I’m sure you can recall as well as I do that we rarely experience any other assessment in class aside from homework checks, quizzes, or exams. Could you imagine how much more engaging and interesting our classes could have been if we were allowed to create different projects, reports, tool kits, or portfolio collections of how we improved? I’d love for you to take a look at this and let me know of anything else you could pick out that we did not experience and how much more interesting our classes could have been if it were incorporated. A few specifics that show how beneficial these assessments are for students are reflected in their comments. For instance, group work allows students to collaborate with each other and share ideas, the marking scheme chosen for this was a rubric and allowed students to conclude with what “we earned..”, taking responsibility for their own learning. Oral reports had students decide and gather “what makes a good group work [well]” and self-assess based on how well they think their contributions were. Presentations let students share “this is what I know”, and provided the opportunity to the remainder of the class to provide peer feedback. Lastly, my favorite, portfolios; students are able to choose a goal that they want to reach, submit assignments based on that goal into the portfolio to show their growth and improvement.

In the second video, Beyond Testing – program 11, discussed how we want our students to make meaning of what they are learning opposed to simply acquiring more information. Adapting necessary assessments and evaluations so we don’t have to wonder “what sense are they making”. This video explores how teachers must incorporate more problem solving and reasoning, and since these expectations are changing assessment must change. Do you remember doing problem solving all the time? Yes, me too, but our assessments were very traditional math exams to test our problem solving skills still. Beyond Testing makes an excellent point that students learn in different ways, therefore teachers have the responsibility to assess us in different ways. Think back to our class, all of us possessed many different skills, talents, and learning abilities. Even when Mr. T altered Calculus to represent Survivor it hit our multiple intelligences in many more intriguing ways than simples note taking and homework assignments. More specifically geared towards my EMTH 350 Inquiry class, we also were not exposed to this exceptional way of learning, and the video touched base with the fact that students should do less paper/pencil work and more hands on. I wish we could have done that! As well as being assessed on-going based on learning improvement instead of emphasis on what grades we should be getting.

I personally feel that most, if not all, of these suggestions were incorporated into our math classes throughout our years we would have enjoyed that class that much more. I invite you to give both of these videos a look and let me know what you think. Did you agree with the traditional paper/pencil, notes, homework, exams assessment we were used to, or do you think having teachers alter the assessment for the needs of their individual students should be taken more seriously?

I anticipate hearing back from you so we can continue our conversation reflecting on our previous math classes. Man, do I miss those days. Hope all is well, we will stay in touch!

-Rebecca.

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