Guided Math in Action ~ Chapter 5: Balanced Assessment

When we hear the word "assessment," so many things pop into our heads. This statement on pg 51 was powerful: "Balanced assessment means that we continually look at the whole student in various ways." With the focus being on the whole child, it is important to have various assessment tools.

In this chapter, Dr. Nicki Newton references the five elements of mathematical proficiency: conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence, adaptive reasoning, and mathematical disposition. (pg 52) I definitely want to work on creating a better balance of these five elements in future assessments. I picked one question as a trigger for each element using the list from pg 53.

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING: Does the student understand this concept?

PROCEDURAL FLUENCY: Can the student do the math?

STRATEGIC COMPETENCE: Does the student use different and efficient strategies when solving problems?

ADAPTIVE REASONING: Can the student talk about the concept?

MATHEMATICAL DISPOSITION: Does the student monitor his/her own learning?


The chapter then focuses on pre-assessment, ongoing assessment, and evaluative assessment.

I really liked how Dr. Nicki Newton flipped the way she launched the lesson on division. As a whole-group pre-assessment, Dr. Newton probed the students to get a pulse of where the students were at by asking the following questions (pg 55):
  • What is division?
  • Who can give me some examples of when we use it?
  • What are the tricky parts? 
The whole-group discussion can activate prior learning for students. Sometimes students just need a trigger to activate and help them remember what they already know. In the past, I have allowed students to quickly preview a concept before a pre-assessment so it's not a cold topic. It has given me a more authentic read for those students who really may have some understanding of the concept, but may just need a quick review. I keep students like Miguel (pg 41) in mind. The data from the pre-assessments is then used to help group students for guided math and to help drive instruction.

Ongoing Assessment:
Ongoing assessment helps keep a pulse on where students are at so we can take them where they need to go (pg 9).

Observations, graphic organizers, and conferences are a few of Dr. Nicki Newton's suggestions for ongoing assessment. In using these, adjustments can be made to the instructional plan for students when needed. I like the idea of using a Teacher Observation Sheet when monitoring and keeping anecdotal notes from guided math sessions (pg 61). The parts that I want to add to my observations during the coming school year are:
  • What does the talk sound like?
  • What are keywords and phrases being used?
  •  Who is not talking? (This is important to notice and track so I can help these students be more comfortable in taking an active role during guided math sessions.)

Evaluative Assessment:
This section's key takeaway is to review the results from an evaluative assessment with the class and individual students. Assessments should be more than a grade; students need to look deeper at their performance beyond the grade they received. I like how Dr. Nicki Newton talks about helping students to concretize their learning before going on to the next concept by having them express what they learned, understand, and still need clarification on (pg 64).

I would like to incorporate more performance assessments. I feel they are more comprehensive and help students see how to apply math. Due to time and finding quality performance tasks, this is not always easy. But it doesn't hurt to set a goal, right?!

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