This is a short post to put our discussion of formative/ongoing assessment into context. Supporting students who are not doing well in math is the ground behind much of what we do and write. Our classroom and tutoring work is centered on developing and refining materials and methods that work for teachers and students in the mix of a classroom and in one-on-one tutoring and homeschool instruction. While there are many contributing factors to good student progress, our focus is on good materials and good teaching. And since ongoing assessment is an essential support to both teachers and students, anytime, but especially when lessons are not fully understood…

1. by good materials we mean those that, by their very design, allow for ongoing observation of student performance. The materials need to be flexible enough to help discover uncertainties in the current lesson while uncovering prior skill gaps. And they need to allow the teacher to address what is observed.

2. by good teaching, we mean putting and keeping students in the active role so they can be observed. If the teacher is in that active role defining, explaining, and modeling the lesson students are going to do, then precious observation time is lost. No good instruction is missed by putting and keeping students in the active role. Flexibility, as describe in point #1, also on the part of the teacher is essential to tap the potential in the materials and the students.

The next post will lay out in more detail the next step in our earlier outline on integrating assessment into a math lesson – using the partner or folding pages.