Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Study Mondays, Chapter 7: Assessing Problem Solving

Chapter 7, Assessing Problem Solving

Welcome back!  If you want to catch up, you can read the posts from the other chapters here or just dive right in!  The book we are studying is What's Your Math Problem? by Linda Gojak. 

I want to start the discussion of assessment with this fabulous quote from the chapter:
"It is through assessment that we improve both student learning and our teaching."
Isn't that golden?  It really puts the purpose of assessment in perspective.  And that's actually how Gojak starts the chapter--by telling us to throw out our preconceived notions about assessment.  You simply can't effectively assess problem solving with a test or even a number grade.

The majority of the chapter focuses on formative assessment.  The purpose of formative assessment is to guide instruction.  It's a continuous cycle of instruct-->assess-->adjust, and in a problem solving classroom, it's often difficult to see where instruction ends and assessment begins as the teacher uses questions to gain a window into student thinking.  Gojak notes that formative assessment is "a joint venture in which both the teacher and the student should have an active role."  As the teacher models the types of questions that can move a student forward when he is stuck, the student is also learning how to get himself out of a problem solving jam using the same types of questions.  The trick is to ask questions that give students only a nudge in the right direction, and not to solve the problem for them.

Rubrics are often used to help students evaluate their own work, and the appendix of the book includes several very useful versions of rubrics to use for self-assessment.

Summative assessments, on the other hand, are designed to determine if students have mastered a particular concept or skill.  Gojak points out that summative assessments should take place after students "have had many experiences" with problem solving.  Rubrics are used for summative assessments as well as formative, and the appendix has several versions of more formal rubrics that can be used for summative assessments.

Getting close to the end!  Next week's chapter wraps up the books with a Q & A.  Don't forget to grab your free problem solving posters by clicking on the captions below each picture.

An intermediate version

The primary version


  1. As you can tell, I am having a free chance to look through your blog! I miss doing it each day! I LOVE the primary poster! We have NO math series this year and are implementing the common core. I just want to say thanks as I have referenced your blog and used SO many of your ideas!!! You have been a life saver!
    Amy Burton

    1. So glad you're having a little chance to catch your breath! Do you subscribe to the blog by email? It makes it a little easier to keep up, because the posts come to your inbox every day! Look for the Follow by Email up on the side bar.

    2. NO! How great would that be! Doing it now! Thanks for the heads up!!! Have a great weekend!

    3. You just crack me up! I've missed you, Amy. :)

  2. Thank you for the posters. I am an SLP working with grades 3-5 and I'm just beginning to get more involved helping students with the language of math. Your blog looks like a great way for me to learn about teaching math concepts. Thanks so much!

    1. My pleasure! Hope you find some things that will help out. :)

  3. I've just found your blog. Thank you for sharing the posters. I snagged the primary version. It will be a great resource to add to my board to help my first grade kiddos solve word problems.

    Adventures in First with Mrs. Key

  4. I have a college student tutoring in my classroom for a course requirement. He asked me the other day how I know what to teach (I am a Title I Math teacher and I have no formal curriculum to speak of.) I told him that I just constantly assess my students and listen to them to determine where they need the extra support. He looked at me like I had two heads. I remember what it was like learning about assessment in college. It probably sounded like I give my students a written assessment everyday, when really it is mostly through questioning and observation.

  5. Hi there. I have stumbled across this poster for problem solving which I would LOVE to download but it wont seem to load when I open it. Is there any other way I can access it? my email is

    Thanks :)

    1. I just emailed you, Hilary! Sorry it took so long!


Comments make me smile! :)

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