Episode #286: Unintended Consequences in Math Assessments in K-12 Classrooms: Balancing Fairness & Growth

May 20, 2024 | Podcast | 0 comments



Episode Summary:

Do we know what we are really measuring in our math assessments? What unintended thoughts are we conveying to our students when we pass the test back? How can we as parents and math professionals navigate complex relationships between teacher, parent, and student? 

This episode delves into the complex dynamics of math assessment, addressing a universal concern among parents and educators about how best to support and evaluate students’ understanding without creating undue pressure or conflict.

What you’ll learn:

  • Gain insights from real-life experiences on navigating disputes over grades and the implications these have on students’ confidence and advocacy skills.
  • Learn about the challenges and strategies in developing fair and effective assessment and evaluation practices in mathematics that respect both the educators’ workload and the learners’ true capabilities.
  • Discover the importance of a growth mindset and how a collaborative, vulnerable approach to educational assessment can foster a constructive learning environment.

Tune into this enlightening discussion to enhance your understanding and approach to math assessments—available now for deeper learning and practical insights.


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Episode Summary:

Math Assessment and Parent Support Strategies

Kyle and Jon discussed their experiences and observations regarding math assessment in their children’s classrooms. Kyle shared his approach to supporting his children’s math education, emphasizing a hands-off approach to avoid making their teachers feel as if they’re not doing it right. They both acknowledged the difficulties and complexities of being an educator, and discussed the varying expectations and initiatives from the district and parents. The conversation also highlighted the importance of meeting children where they are and supporting them in their learning.

Dispute Over a Child’s Grade

Kyle shared a recent experience involving a dispute over a grade given to a child. The child believed the grade was incorrect, leading to a discussion with Kyle and his wife, both of whom are teachers. While Kyle initially wanted to write a note to the child to assure them that no judgment was being made, his wife disagreed, believing it would only lead to further nitpicking. Eventually, Kyle and his wife decided to side with the child and encouraged them to advocate for themselves, despite not believing the grade discrepancy was significant.

Assessment and Evaluation Practices in Mathematics

Kyle and Jon discussed their experiences and perspectives regarding educational assessment and evaluation practices, specifically in mathematics. Kyle highlighted the tendency of educators to be overly critical in their assessment, using an example from his own family where this led to a disagreement. Jon emphasized the importance of respecting teachers’ workload while ensuring that assessments accurately reflect the student’s understanding and progress at the grade level. Both agreed on the necessity of thoughtful assessment and evaluation to effectively communicate information to students.

Addressing Grading System Concerns

Jon expressed concerns about the grading system and its impact on students’ understanding of concepts. He argued that small errors in calculations, such as forgetting to divide by two, could lead to lower scores and a misrepresentation of a student’s knowledge. Jon proposed that teachers should focus on assessing the overall understanding of a concept, rather than just individual calculations. He also discussed the difficulty for students to challenge their grades, especially when they feel they have understood the material. Kyle agreed with Jon’s perspectives and acknowledged the need for careful assessment and grading practices.

Improving Assessment and Evaluation in Education

Kyle emphasized the importance of improving assessment and evaluation processes in education. He noted that teachers often feel conflicted about these decisions and suggested adopting a more vulnerable, collaborative approach to discussions about assessment and evaluation. He advocated for a growth mindset in learning and emphasized the need for a culture of learning in classrooms. He also expressed concern about potential conflicts between teachers, parents, and students, and highlighted the need for a team mentality in education. Jon agreed with Kyle’s suggestions, indicating that these issues are a common problem.

Kyle’s Concerns on Educational Assessment Approach

Kyle voiced his concerns about the approach he and Jon took regarding a particular educational assessment. He felt that their decision to downplay the importance of the assessment led to miscommunication and a lack of advocacy on the part of the student. He wished they had encouraged the student to speak up and advocate for themselves. Kyle expressed his belief that educators should encourage open discussions about assessment and evaluation, particularly in mathematics. Jon acknowledged Kyle’s perspective and hinted that educators need to come to terms with this approach.

Assessment Process, Vulnerability, and Communication

Jon and Kyle emphasized the importance of vulnerability and professional judgment in the assessment process. They discussed the need for teachers to be open to changing their minds about a student’s progress and to seek out evidence to support their assessments. They also stressed the importance of clear communication with parents and students about the assessment process and expectations. The goal is to create a culture of learning focused on growth and productive discussions, rather than just marking and grade-grubbing. The discussion encouraged listeners to continue reflecting on their own assessment practices.

Podcast Subscription and Math Tool

Jon encouraged listeners to subscribe to their podcast and leave ratings and reviews, emphasizing that new episodes are released every Monday. He also suggested listeners browse through the archive of episodes to find one that interests them. Kyle then introduced a tool on makemathmonds.com/report for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a math classroom. He invited listeners to take the short screener to determine their next steps. The next meeting was set for 3:15.

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00:00:00:03 – 00:00:22:13
Jon Orr
All right, Kyle, I know that I’ve had this conversation in my household many times, and it’s actually I don’t know if it’s great to say many times, but I mean, it’s happened multiple times in my household. You just came off a family discussion around, I think, safe to say, math assessment in your child’s classroom. I want you to dig into it here for us and the listeners.

00:00:22:15 – 00:00:46:04
Jon Orr
If you’re listening right now, we we’re getting into it. We’re getting into some of that. Our personal experiences, our kids are coming home from math. They’re sharing what’s happening in their math class. We as parents, we’re going to talk to you as parents today, and I guess we can’t turn our math teacher hats off ever. But we’re going to unpack it here today on the assessment around what we’re seeing in assessment, what we’re experiencing in classrooms, and also the way that we treat assessments.

00:00:46:04 – 00:00:50:07
Jon Orr
So digging in. Let’s all talk I’ll share the experience.

00:00:50:09 – 00:01:16:14
Kyle Pearce
Yeah. And first, before I do shared, I do want to acknowledge the fact that we talk about it on the podcast often that educator thing is an incredibly difficult position to be in. Being a teacher is a hard position because you’re wearing a lot of hats, right? You’re trying your best, you’re trying to help kids, you’re trying to manage expectations from admin, you’re trying to deal with what’s the initiatives from the district.

00:01:16:14 – 00:01:47:18
Kyle Pearce
You’re trying to deal with parents who some parents are expecting this. Some parents are expecting that it is really, really difficult. And in our household, I would argue that, especially given the fact that I’ve been in math education for a really long time, we’ve done a lot of learning, we’ve done a lot of sharing, a lot of presenting, a lot of leading that we really use a hands off approach in our household when it comes to how educators are delivering the math curriculum with our kids.

00:01:47:18 – 00:02:14:24
Kyle Pearce
Right. And I try to add to it. I try to give kids other strategies, but I try to be very, very cautious about the language I use with them. I don’t want them to feel as though their teachers are doing it, quote unquote, the wrong way or they’re not doing it the right way or whatever that might be, but rather trying to essentially meet people where they are, but also at the same time trying to help the kids at the same time.

00:02:14:24 – 00:02:32:04
Kyle Pearce
And I know you’ve dealt with this. I’m sure you’ll share some of the stories you’ve had in the past, but most recently, what sort of happened here is we had a situation where one of my children, I don’t even want to generalize which child, just in case anyone knows where my kids go to school and all of those things.

00:02:32:04 – 00:02:52:14
Kyle Pearce
My wife actually teaches at the school. So there’s that added layer of complexity. But ultimately what it turned out was usually my kids were very hard on them, right? Meaning if they get a certain mark, regardless of whether I like it, dislike it, whether I would have marked it the same way or not. We try to work with that and we try to figure out where we could have improved.

00:02:52:14 – 00:03:14:04
Kyle Pearce
And what did you like about it? What did you not like about it? Well, in this particular case, it was just cut and dry that the several questions, only a handful honestly didn’t make much of a difference as to like the final result. We’re actually questions that this child had done correctly and the teacher had marked them incorrect.

00:03:14:06 – 00:03:14:17
Kyle Pearce

00:03:14:17 – 00:03:22:24
Jon Orr
Tell me the specifics. Tell me the specifics, because it’s like that’s hard to imagine sometimes, too. You’re saying they’re correct. They’re saying it was marked incorrect.

00:03:23:04 – 00:03:43:06
Kyle Pearce
Yeah. And it’s like as an educator and as someone who has done workshops on assessment and evaluation and all of these things, it’s like you can kind of see almost like the writing on the wall of what probably happened. So it was angle measurement. All right. So it’s an angle measurement, little quiz, little assessment, whatever it is, and it’s coming home.

00:03:43:08 – 00:04:13:19
Kyle Pearce
And there’s these three questions that we’re just basically asking. Ah, I think it was saying like, circle the right angles. And basically my child had circled some and not circle to other angles. And basically amongst them there was three of them that they either circled or didn’t circle, but they were actually correct. They took the protractor out and proved it to me to show and went, Look, it’s right like this is a right angle or No, this is not a right angle.

00:04:13:19 – 00:04:20:14
Kyle Pearce
Now the angles were very close, so it was like 93 degrees instead of 90.

00:04:20:14 – 00:04:24:08
Jon Orr
Were the kids supposed to measure is at the point of this exercise? It’s like.

00:04:24:09 – 00:04:25:20
Kyle Pearce
I can’t imagine it looks.

00:04:25:20 – 00:04:26:07
Jon Orr
Like a right.

00:04:26:07 – 00:04:47:03
Kyle Pearce
Angle. And here is the part. Here is the part. I don’t think it said either way. And it’s clear to me that the educator had eyeballed and it’s clear to me that my child had measured. Right. And it didn’t say to do it or to not do it. They asked the question, and this is sort of where we landed rates.

00:04:47:03 – 00:04:56:08
Jon Orr
You’re saying when I posed that, give us the specifics. They said it was wrong. You said it’s right. You probably measured just to confirm what’s going on here.

00:04:56:10 – 00:05:18:16
Kyle Pearce
Well, I mean, the child measured, right? So they came to me and I was like, you know why they checked it? You check, you know, And then they basically brought it to me and said, look. And we’re like, look, I’m right. And I was like, you know what? I would agree with you. And I want to make sure my tone is very clear here, that I know the teachers in this school, I have no issues, no qualms with them.

00:05:18:16 – 00:05:27:24
Kyle Pearce
But this is just one of those classic cases where now the debate in the household was do we go back? Because I’m telling you right now.

00:05:28:04 – 00:05:28:13
Jon Orr

00:05:28:13 – 00:05:52:19
Kyle Pearce
Now totally. And I do not care about those three questions, those three marks. It didn’t it’s not going to have an impact. But the child is wanting to sort of advocate for themself. And then the big discussion in our household, because again, both teachers, right? My wife’s a teacher, I’m a teacher. And we had sort of like varying ideas around it.

00:05:52:19 – 00:06:13:21
Kyle Pearce
Like my thought was, hey, let’s like write a note and say, Hey, by the way, we don’t care. We’re not judging. We’ve been there, too, where we’ve accidentally marked something incorrect. We’re not worried about it. We don’t want you to feel pressure that we’re breathing down your neck or any of those things. But the child wants to advocate for themselves and we want to actually encourage them.

00:06:13:21 – 00:06:39:07
Kyle Pearce
That’s my son. Whereas my wife’s thought was no teachers have enough parents breathing down their back and wanting nit picking. And as my wife’s saying this, I’m envisioning all those times I’ve been in the staff room in my career where you hear teachers going like, Hey, if they I gave them an 89 and if they want the 92, fine, I’ll give them the 90, you know, And like you’re nit picking, nit picking and getting.

00:06:39:11 – 00:07:01:05
Kyle Pearce
Exactly. Because at the end of the day, I’m like, I honestly, I really don’t care. I know it. That part does not matter. But what does matter is that you have a child that does want to advocate. So we had this sort of conundrum in the household and we ultimately got to the point where, hey, the child was I feel like getting a little bit hot and heavy about this.

00:07:01:05 – 00:07:15:01
Kyle Pearce
So I was like, you know what? I’m actually going to sort of side with Chantelle on this and go, you know, maybe you shouldn’t because right now I don’t think you’re actually calm enough to have an actual productive conversation about it. So we’re not going to be in support of this.

00:07:15:03 – 00:07:16:01
Jon Orr
Takes after you.

00:07:16:01 – 00:07:35:20
Kyle Pearce
Yeah, exactly. When I get going, I get going. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the reason I wanted to bring it on this episode is I wanted to zoom out on if we zoom out far enough and we zoom out past my own family experience here and your own experience and we zoom out and we go, Why are we even in this scenario?

00:07:35:22 – 00:08:05:15
Kyle Pearce
And it really comes down to the fact that as educators, I think traditionally not. I’m not saying this specific educator and I’m not saying all educators, but a lot the majority of educators, we are very nit picky in general when it comes to our assessment and evaluation practices, specifically in mathematics. So what I mean by that is were quick to deduct marks were quick to mark something wrong and want it to be done.

00:08:05:15 – 00:08:29:12
Kyle Pearce
Well, I’m picturing like when I’ve been there, I’ve done it. I’ve been this teacher where it’s like a student eyeballs that angle question and I know that it’s 93 degrees and I would mark that wrong and I’d be like, yes, should a measured but in this scenario, it’s like the table is actually turned and in this case it’s like the student actually measured.

00:08:29:12 – 00:08:55:11
Kyle Pearce
And clearly, I know that this educator knows what a right angle is like. There is no doubt in my mind it’s simply just an oversight, which again, we’re all human. No big thing, but I just found it interes stating that it was like we were actually suppressing one of our children sort of wants to advocate for themself to say like, well, I actually think that I measured it and I think I’m correct.

00:08:55:13 – 00:09:10:11
Kyle Pearce
And just to like set the record straight. And in our household it became such a debate about whether this was the right thing to do, despite the fact that we in education typically would have demanded more accuracy from the child.

00:09:10:13 – 00:09:32:18
Jon Orr
Yeah, when I hear this story and I think where you and your family kind of went down, what it was sounded like you as a group or you and Shantel were thinking about the teacher and going like, we want to make sure we have to be respectful. The teachers got a lot on their plate. We do want to make sure we address this, but I think we’re happened in my family.

00:09:32:18 – 00:09:56:06
Jon Orr
Is that all I wanted to make sure that my child knew was that you’re confident in the work that you’ve done. That’s the point of assessment, right? Like when you’re assessing, when you’re giving grades, if you’re giving grades for your assessment, if you’re giving feedback, no matter how you’re doing, your assessment. The point is to let the child know where they are on, say, the trajectory of the grade level standard.

00:09:56:07 – 00:10:16:00
Jon Orr
Where are you on this skill or this idea? And so that you can decide and take that feedback and go, where do I have to go with that? And hopefully that assessment helps steer that direction. And when you have a situation like you’ve had, that’s the part that gets concerning for me, right? Like that’s why assessment has to be very carefully thought.

00:10:16:00 – 00:10:35:07
Jon Orr
It can’t be. Just let me just whip up a question here and then whip through my marking, even though I know there’s a lot on teachers plates and I know that there’s a lot to do, and especially marking sometimes does take a long time. But we have to run like I like that you’re saying let’s take a step back and look at the big picture, because what is the big picture?

00:10:35:09 – 00:11:07:09
Jon Orr
If you’re marking the stuff, the big picture has to be about what information am I conveying to this kid? And for me, that’s in our situation was was, I think, a different grade level, a little bit older. But what they were looking at, you know, volume of cylinders and volume of prisms. And when you looked at, say, making a small mistake on a question, it’s like, oh, we forgot to divide the diameter by two and then use the wrong number in the formulas to calculate the volume of, say, a cylinder.

00:11:07:11 – 00:11:30:24
Jon Orr
And that there was two parts to that question and they still use the same calculation for the radius in the next part in the questions out of ten. And it’s only a two question test and so the whole thing’s out of 20. But when you mark, you mark everything wrong because you made that small mistake you’re telling. So this is where it got concerning.

00:11:30:24 – 00:11:49:24
Jon Orr
This is where I’m sure you are concerned, is that when you hand that back and you said, look, you have a 55% on this test when you may. And really when you look at as a whole and if you looked at as a whole is go what what is it that I’m conveying to the child and the child says, I don’t know math.

00:11:50:05 – 00:12:08:09
Jon Orr
I don’t know how to do the volume of a cylinder when I look at this number. So when we convey this information, it’s like when my daughter read this, the immediate feedback that says like, I don’t know what I’m doing. But when I looked at that question and I’m like, Look, you made one small mistake. You know how to calculate the volume of selling.

00:12:08:09 – 00:12:26:01
Jon Orr
You know what to look for. And here’s the kicker on this. On the next question, she calculated the radius correctly. So as a whole, when you give a mark back to a child, you have to go, what am I actually assessing here? And I think that’s where we miss sometimes. And I know that I did this for years.

00:12:26:01 – 00:12:44:21
Jon Orr
I did this for years for sure. I was nit picky. I was marketing and it’s like, okay, I took three marks off. I created my own grading scale and this is what I was looking for in terms of steps, but I wasn’t looking as a whole on what I’m really assessing. I’m, I really assessing the errors or am I assessing whether they know or don’t know the concept as a whole.

00:12:44:21 – 00:13:02:08
Jon Orr
And we have to take that into account because my daughter looked at that and said, I don’t know it, but I’m like, when I look at it, you got a 97. If I graded it differently and does that tell you, you know what? And that’s all I really wanted her to know about that experience because we had that same discussion, is like, should we go back to the teacher?

00:13:02:08 – 00:13:32:12
Jon Orr
You’ve got a 55. Really? This could be a 97. And one aspect I don’t care about the actual mark. And I wanted to tell her, I know you do and it’s really concerning to you. If you want, you can go back and ask and talk to the teacher to kind of like stick up for yourself. But I feel like I know this, but I want you to know whatever you decide, because it’s hard for a teenager or, you know, a pretty to go into a classroom and tell an adult that maybe they made a mistake or they did make a mistake.

00:13:32:14 – 00:13:50:05
Jon Orr
And that’s a hard thing to do. But I think all I want you to know right now is that, you know this you’ve got this in you demonstrated this in a great way. You made a mistake. It’s fine. You probably will never make that mistake again. But it makes me reflect on all the experiences where that does not happen at home.

00:13:50:07 – 00:14:10:14
Jon Orr
That’s the part why our job for assessment has to be very carefully thought out and we really have to like take time there. So if it’s like if all of your job, all the things we have to do on a regular basis and like where we should dedicate understanding and time and be careful, that’s the place. And most times for me, I did this for a long time.

00:14:10:14 – 00:14:13:00
Jon Orr
I whipped through that part. Let me just mark quickly.

00:14:13:02 – 00:14:34:15
Kyle Pearce
Totally. And I think and again, I don’t want to speak to this specific teacher in this specific scenario because we’re really talking at a high level. I have no idea how that teacher would have interpreted my child going back to them and having this conversation. They might have been completely open to this discussion and they might have handled it perfectly.

00:14:34:15 – 00:15:05:10
Kyle Pearce
And I guess I think on Shawn tell side, I think she’s just she likes to avoid conflict at all costs. So she’s like, she didn’t want the idea that there could potentially be a conflict. And when I think about it in assessment and evaluation, when we are not confident in what it is that we’re doing when it comes to the decisions we make for assessment and evaluation, I think that is where we get sort of a bit of a battle back and forth, right?

00:15:05:10 – 00:15:23:24
Kyle Pearce
Whereas I remember feeling that way like it’s almost like a bit of a fake it till you make it mentality that we have an education, that we’re like, I’m going to market this way, I’m going to assess it this way, I’m going to evaluate it this way, and I’m going to stick to my guns. I’m going to stick to my guns, and someone comes back to me.

00:15:23:24 – 00:15:55:15
Kyle Pearce
It’s like, I’m going to now defend what I did rather than actually be a little bit more vulnerable and like lean back and go, like, I would love to hear what your thoughts are and how we can do this better because ultimately at the end the outcome will be better for the student. And I think the reason I wanted to bring this up on a podcast episode was, again, not this one scenario, but for all of us to be thinking about how are we assessing, how are we evaluated and am I creating?

00:15:55:15 – 00:16:26:10
Kyle Pearce
We talk about the classroom pillars, right? We talk about the trunk of the tree, the leadership portion. Are we creating a culture, a true culture of learning? In my classroom, I hear growth mindset all the time. We hear all of these things right about mindset and beliefs and really, if we truly believe that we’re working towards more growth mindset type learning, then assessment and evaluation again shouldn’t actually be so hard or difficult to talk about.

00:16:26:11 – 00:16:55:14
Kyle Pearce
It shouldn’t be the conversation shouldn’t be assuming that it’s just someone going trying to get the extra two marks or the extra mark or whatever it is, but rather to actually get to a more clear understanding of what it is that you, John, were looking for. When you assess this particular piece of product, conversation, observation, whatever it is, and what I understood it to be, and if we could come to that common understanding, then we could actually move forward together.

00:16:55:14 – 00:17:32:01
Kyle Pearce
And we’ve talked about it on the podcast before. It should be a team mentality. It should be that the teacher, the parent and the student are together on the same team, working towards the same goal instead of it at least seeming like there’s an us versus them. It’s like the kid in the parents versus the teacher or the teacher versus again, I’m not even saying that’s the case here, but it just definitely reminded me that if we’re concern around about that, if we were worried about maybe that causing conflict, then that suggests that in general that’s a common problem.

00:17:32:01 – 00:18:04:23
Kyle Pearce
And this is the part that I guess bothers me the most about that experience, this particular one, because we did decide to go, you know what to couple marks, I wanted to be very clear. As you said, the biggest challenge is imagine if you or I weren’t in our houses to have that conversation with our child. Think of how many kids whose parents don’t maybe know the math, don’t feel confident in the math, aren’t willing to kind of like advocate and help their child to understand that, hey, maybe you know more than what this number suggests, whatever it might be.

00:18:04:23 – 00:18:30:12
Kyle Pearce
That’s a really scary thought. But then the part for me that was really upsetting and troubling and it’s maybe my big takeaway here, and I’m hoping everyone who’s listening has their own takeaways of how they can use this experience to help them along their own assessment and evaluation journey. But I thought about this and I think of how many times I tell my children that you need to try your hardest.

00:18:30:18 – 00:18:49:18
Kyle Pearce
You need to read the question a few times to make sure that you understand what it’s asking you. You need to go back and make sure that you’re giving enough detail. You need to be specific. You need to measure. If there aren’t measurements, I’m telling them all of these things. And then in this particular experience, I said the exact opposite.

00:18:49:18 – 00:19:19:23
Kyle Pearce
And I said, You know what, don’t even worry about. It’s not a big deal. Just let it go. And that’s sort of like the sweep it under the rug. And I’m like, that’s like a very contradictory comment that we ended up making just to avoid having. And really what it is, is we didn’t want the potential for the educator to tell themself a story that the parents were upset because we aren’t upset we weren’t, but we didn’t want them to potentially have that story in their mind that like, Oh, look out for those parents.

00:19:19:23 – 00:19:40:24
Kyle Pearce
They’re going to try to get the marks or get the this or that sort of thing. But the part that bothers me is that I want my child to always try their hardest, always reread, always try to do their best. And when they notice something isn’t right, that they can advocate for themselves in an appropriate fashion, right, in a productive fashion.

00:19:41:01 – 00:19:49:09
Kyle Pearce
But in that moment, we sort of took a different approach. And I felt like in a way, it kind of bothered me from a fundamental standpoint.

00:19:49:11 – 00:19:52:04
Jon Orr
So you wish you had got a different route now that it’s over?

00:19:52:06 – 00:20:13:14
Kyle Pearce
Well, I mean, I still think the right thing to do would have been the productive have the conversation. I was very open that day like saying, listen, give this note to your teacher before you have your conversation. And in the note saying, I just want to let you know we’re encouraging them to advocate, but we’re okay with whatever you decide.

00:20:13:18 – 00:20:33:17
Kyle Pearce
I personally have nothing to do with this. But ultimately, at the end of the day, Shantel said, that’s just too complicated and too complex. There’s too much, you know, misinterpretation that can happen. She’s of the mindset that it’s like, you know what? It’s not that big a deal. Let’s not make a problem out of what do they call that, a mountain out of a molehill or whatever you call it.

00:20:33:17 – 00:21:06:06
Kyle Pearce
So we went that route. But again, I think ultimately how we can avoid this decision is if we actually change the culture over time around education, assessment and evaluation. But specific in mathematics where maybe it can be more of an open discussion and we don’t have to be so worried about a parent coming back or a child coming back to have a discussion, because I think we should be encouraging these discussions more so than, say, just accepting what it is and moving on.

00:21:06:11 – 00:21:50:19
Jon Orr
Yeah, and I think that actually got a lot of thoughts on this. And soon as you just finished that sentence, my head jumped to us as educators coming to terms with it’s okay to show vulnerability around assessment. And if I’ve learned anything in my, say, 19 years around what’s most important around assessment, it is always trying to make sure we know or have the most up to date information of where this particular student is on this set of standards in being open to changing your mindset or where you’ve made judgment at any time along the way.

00:21:50:21 – 00:22:08:20
Jon Orr
And I think that part has shifted for me over the years because I used to be the very traditional high school teacher. You got the mark, You got the mark. I didn’t give you a mark. You earned this mark or you got that mark because of the checkpoints I marked on your test. But I made the test and I created the scaling system.

00:22:08:20 – 00:22:40:05
Jon Orr
And instead of having the confidence and that vulnerability and confidence, I think does go hand in hand in a way, you learn the confidence of saying, I’ve looked at many different pieces and this is where this student stands on this set of learning goals or in this particular learning goal. But if I’m wrong, then I would want to know where I went wrong and I would gladly accept another piece of evidence to help change that, because my only goal and this is part of the culture, you know, this is one of our pillars.

00:22:40:05 – 00:23:02:05
Jon Orr
We’ve talked about the pillars of math class in my math classes. One of the pillars is that assessment needs to be for growth. So if I don’t have all the puzzle pieces here around your current understanding, please show me. Please let me know where that current learning needs to be updated so that I can give you an accurate representation of what you know and what you can do and what you understand.

00:23:02:07 – 00:23:39:17
Jon Orr
So I always looked at it is that if I was in a parent teacher interview and I’m saying this is where they stand on this set of learning goals and that parents, if they had said, if I don’t think that’s true, then we say, great, bring them in, let’s reassess, because let’s get the right number here. And I think that part is like the vulnerability of like, I’m okay with that, but that’s confident as well that we have to trust our professional judgment along the way, because in order for us to have that confidence, we have to be able to like have that professional judgment to be like, yes, I know what grade level standard

00:23:39:17 – 00:23:57:15
Jon Orr
looks like. I feel confident of that. I know where the student is because I’ve witnessed, I’ve observed, I’ve talked, I’ve seen product, I’ve looked at product. There’s a lot that goes into it. And I think that’s what gives you the confidence instead of just because I had actually no confidence in the old system of just marking the test.

00:23:57:15 – 00:24:20:23
Jon Orr
If I had this test that your child brought home and if that was like my test and that was came back to me, I’m like, I actually don’t know. You drew a 90 here when you shouldn’t have. I actually don’t know if you know what 90 degrees are because that’s actually like it wasn’t drawn. So I didn’t even know whether it’s true or not because I actually haven’t talked to you enough or I didn’t have enough pieces of evidence along the way.

00:24:21:00 – 00:24:39:03
Jon Orr
I know you’re always famous for saying that test shouldn’t be a surprise. I was like, What happens on that quiz or that test? You should know what’s happening going into that. You should know where that kid’s like, almost like what that kid’s going to get because you’ve done well, you’ve interacted and learned along the way. And I think that’s what we need to do.

00:24:39:03 – 00:24:47:15
Jon Orr
We have to have that confidence in our professional judgment, but we also have to have that vulnerability to be okay if we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle.

00:24:47:17 – 00:25:15:07
Kyle Pearce
I love it. And I’m thinking about how can we set ourselves up? And I want to give everyone maybe an actionable thought or item that maybe they can start working in if they haven’t already. And really, I think what it comes down to is early communication as to what that looks like and sounds like. And also in that communication is ensuring that parents and students understand your stance.

00:25:15:09 – 00:25:38:18
Kyle Pearce
And if everyone’s guessing, that is when people come out all guns blazing. Right? And what I mean by that is that if I’m not clear on what that looks like and sounds like, then it’s like nobody knows what they’re supposed to do. And sometimes people bite their tongue for a long time and a pent up kind of worries or frustrations and you might be completely unaware of it.

00:25:38:18 – 00:26:05:21
Kyle Pearce
And it could have been resolved much sooner. So by communicating your philosophy not just to the students, but also to the parents and saying something and you don’t have to say this, but I know I’m open to saying it is that I am going to make mistakes when I’m assessing and evaluating your child, because all I’m going to get to see is what I see, what I hear and what I observing here.

00:26:05:23 – 00:26:28:15
Kyle Pearce
And if at any point there’s a mismatch I want to know about it because I want to make sure that we get it to where it really should be so it can be as accurate as possible. And you had said something in sort of a different way a little bit earlier, but if you let them know that, first of all, I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to miss things.

00:26:28:15 – 00:26:51:13
Kyle Pearce
Right. And when there is an issue, when there is something that isn’t jiving, that we can work together to try to figure out what the solution is, everything stays calm, everything stays productive, or at least in most cases, we can’t say it’s always going to be productive, right? You always get those special individuals who might come in still hot and heavy.

00:26:51:15 – 00:27:13:07
Kyle Pearce
But the reality is, is that if you’re okay with that and again, it comes down to vulnerability and having the confidence to be able to say those things, then I think you you essentially eliminate the need to have these sort of back and forth battles. Right. Or the thought of a back and forth battle. And I think we are getting closer in education.

00:27:13:07 – 00:27:48:00
Kyle Pearce
And I think if we keep moving in this direction and constantly think keep it top of mind, we can as an education community help where the culture of learning is about productive discussions here, not about marks and nit picking marks back and forth. It’s about just being as accurate as we can so that we can help again, who are we trying to help the student to become the best version of themself, to become the best learner, to learn as much and prepare themselves for the next step in life’s journey?

00:27:48:03 – 00:28:10:11
Jon Orr
That’s it, folks. That is there. Our episode on assessment and kind of thinking about what are we doing in terms of communicating messages to our students? What are we doing to make some choices in how we handle situations at home? I know we’ve learned a lot in just reflecting on this scenario and in the scenarios that we’ve had throughout.

00:28:10:11 – 00:28:38:10
Jon Orr
So we encourage you to keep reflecting and thinking and that’s why you listen to this podcast is allows you to do that reflection and that’s the type of educator you are. If you have listened to more than one episode, we encourage you to hit the rate and review button and leave us a rating and review. And I know that there’s some people out there because I was just told this on one of our district calls that they’re like, every time you guys say that, every time you guys say I should leave a rating and review, I make a point to do it and I never do it.

00:28:38:16 – 00:28:55:04
Jon Orr
I always get lost. It doesn’t happen. It just gets lost in the fall. And she’s in that. She’s like, I’m going to do it this time. So if you’re listening right now and you know, you just told me that, then go ahead and do it and go ahead and leave that rating and review. Now, if this is the first episode you’ve listened to, then hey, you could do that too.

00:28:55:04 – 00:29:12:19
Jon Orr
But we want you to subscribe because we put these episodes at every Monday morning. We’ve been doing it for a few years, so don’t also feel overwhelmed when you go look at the catalog of episodes, Go ahead and scroll. Pick one that stands out to you. Listen to that one, and then maybe you’ll listen to another one after that, but subscribe so you can get notified when the new episodes come out each week.

00:29:12:19 – 00:29:36:18
Kyle Pearce
Well, friends, if you’re interested in determining what part of your math classroom tree is flourishing and what parts could use a little bit of attention, head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash report. And you can take our short screener that’s going to highlight some next steps for you in your own journey. Is it going to be assessment and evaluation?

00:29:36:18 – 00:29:51:00
Kyle Pearce
I don’t know. We’ll see head on over to make math moments dot com forward slash report and we look forward to seeing your results come through. Well until next time math moment makers I’m Kyle Pearce.

00:29:51:02 – 00:29:52:07
Jon Orr
And I’m Jon Orr.

00:29:52:09 – 00:29:55:06
Kyle Pearce
High fives for us.

00:29:55:08 – 00:30:07:10
Jon Orr
And hi fi you.

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The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast with Kyle Pearce & Jon Orr
Weekly interviews, strategy, and advice for building a math classroom that you wish you were in.


Download the 2-page printable 3 Act Math Tip Sheet to ensure that you have the best start to your journey using 3 Act math Tasks to spark curiosity and fuel sense making in your math classroom!

3 Act Math Tip Sheet


Each lesson consists of:

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson consists of a Teacher Guide to lead you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure your lesson runs without a hitch!

Each Teacher Guide consists of:

  • Intentionality of the lesson;
  • A step-by-step walk through of each phase of the lesson;
  • Visuals, animations, and videos unpacking big ideas, strategies, and models we intend to emerge during the lesson;
  • Sample student approaches to assist in anticipating what your students might do;
  • Resources and downloads including Keynote, Powerpoint, Media Files, and Teacher Guide printable PDF; and,
  • Much more!

Each Make Math Moments Problem Based Lesson begins with a story, visual, video, or other method to Spark Curiosity through context.

Students will often Notice and Wonder before making an estimate to draw them in and invest in the problem.

After student voice has been heard and acknowledged, we will set students off on a Productive Struggle via a prompt related to the Spark context.

These prompts are given each lesson with the following conditions:

  • No calculators are to be used; and,
  • Students are to focus on how they can convince their math community that their solution is valid.

Students are left to engage in a productive struggle as the facilitator circulates to observe and engage in conversation as a means of assessing formatively.

The facilitator is instructed through the Teacher Guide on what specific strategies and models could be used to make connections and consolidate the learning from the lesson.

Often times, animations and walk through videos are provided in the Teacher Guide to assist with planning and delivering the consolidation.

A review image, video, or animation is provided as a conclusion to the task from the lesson.

While this might feel like a natural ending to the context students have been exploring, it is just the beginning as we look to leverage this context via extensions and additional lessons to dig deeper.

At the end of each lesson, consolidation prompts and/or extensions are crafted for students to purposefully practice and demonstrate their current understanding. 

Facilitators are encouraged to collect these consolidation prompts as a means to engage in the assessment process and inform next moves for instruction.

In multi-day units of study, Math Talks are crafted to help build on the thinking from the previous day and build towards the next step in the developmental progression of the concept(s) we are exploring.

Each Math Talk is constructed as a string of related problems that build with intentionality to emerge specific big ideas, strategies, and mathematical models. 

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

Use our OPEN ACCESS multi-day problem based units!

Make Math Moments Problem Based Lessons and Day 1 Teacher Guides are openly available for you to leverage and use with your students without becoming a Make Math Moments Academy Member.

MMM Unit - Snack Time Fractions Unit


Partitive Division Resulting in a Fraction

Shot Put Multi Day Problem Based Unit - Algebraic Substitution


Equivalence and Algebraic Substitution

Wooly Worm Race - Representing and Adding Fractions


Fractions and Metric Units


Scavenger Hunt - Data Management and Finding The Mean


Represent Categorical Data & Explore Mean

Downloadable resources including blackline mastershandouts, printable Tips Sheetsslide shows, and media files do require a Make Math Moments Academy Membership.


Pedagogically aligned for teachers of K through Grade 12 with content specific examples from Grades 3 through Grade 10.

In our self-paced, 12-week Online Workshop, you'll learn how to craft new and transform your current lessons to Spark Curiosity, Fuel Sense Making, and Ignite Your Teacher Moves to promote resilient problem solvers.