Too often I find that teachers are stuck while getting started in Do The Math. How can I trust the data I have in order to help me make placement decisions? Whether you have Math Inventory or not, there are a couple things to keep in mind when you get ready to place students.
1. What data do I have available? If you are a district that uses Math Inventory, this may be your starting point for determining placement into Do The Math. Because it's a screener, the results are really helping us to determine which students are below grade level, thus a good candidate for Do The Math instruction. We also want to keep in mind the strands from Math Inventory that were identified as weak. Do The Math focuses on Numbers and Operations as well as algebraic thinking, therefore I want to specifically look at those strands in Math Inventory. I also want to consider our teachers who are not currently using Math Inventory data. What other data is helpful in determining placement? Think about what reports you have available that your district generates from assessments. Do you use MAP, interims, or yearly PARCC testing? All of these can be used in combination with one another to create a picture of your students' strengths and weaknesses in relation to number concepts. Lastly, we cannot discount the data that came before, or the observations we make day in and day out. While we want to have multiple points of data, the questions and informal assessments you give in your classroom can give you an indication of how students are performing, and which students may need extra support. So, whether you have Math Inventory or other assessment data, the key is to use piece together multiple snapshots to give you a comprehensive picture of student performance.
2. How do I know I have made the correct placement? Something I encounter often while working with teachers is their concern of placing students incorrectly in a Do The Math module. Guess what? Because of the flexible nature of Do the Math, you can adjust after additional instruction and more observations. The message here is to not be too hard on yourself and put too much stress into looking at the data. I used to get hung up on one specific piece of data that was telling me a student should be placed in Do The Math, yet when I met with them and had an informal math conversation, it was clear that this student would meet grade level standards with core lessons. We can get wrapped up in poring over the data that we forget the most important thing, the student. Ask yourself, what have I seen this student doing that tells me about their math skills? How is the student demonstrating the Math Practices? What trends are obvious across several data points? The most important thing is that we get going and move forward. We can always adjust when needed, because placement decisions are not fixed.
3. How do I ensure that my placement continues to be a good fit? Remember that Do The Math has some incredible opportunities built right in to support the teacher in making formative assessment decisions. Each day, students are completing some part of the student workspace. This is an opportunity for the teacher to observe and reflect on the work that students are doing. Can the student keep up? Are they verbalizing their knowledge that indicates they understand? Additionally, every 5 lessons a checkpoint day is built in, called Show What You Know. Remember those yellow pages in the teacher's guide? This is yet another great opportunity to stop and think about what students understand about the content you have introduced. Many times, these assessment opportunities are students playing a game or working similar problems that they have done all week; however, it's a reminder to the teacher to adjust as needed. Don't forget the bonus! Each Show What You Know day has suggestions for remediation and challenge as needed. No need to go digging for ways to continue support for students. Lastly, at the end of each module, (30 lessons), students will take the End of Module Assessment to compare to their Beginning of Module assessment. Again, this is another great opportunity to consider adjustments in placement, if needed.
Student placement in Do The Math shouldn't be a stressful thing. Ultimately, we need to trust ourselves as professionals to make the decisions needed to support our students. Your students are going to get more out of you placing them incorrectly and adjusting than they will if you never get them started. Don’t be afraid to dig in. Enjoy your students. Enjoy their thinking. Enjoy the time you have to learn from them and support them as they see themselves as mathematicians.
Holly Burwell is a Professional Learning Consultant for Math Solutions. She has been a teacher, instructional coach, and consultant for 12 years, all the while idolizing Marilyn Burns! In her free time she enjoys reading, camping throughout Montana, and spending time with her husband, four children, and three dogs. She continues to rid the world of math’s negative reputation one student at a time.