Today, I threw this problem up in front of my 8th graders and they looked like they'd seen a ghost.
I like this problem because today it was an opportunity for them to show their problem solving skills. They have all the tools they need to solve this problem, but they need to figure out which tool to use and when.
- find a common denominator
- add fractions
- divide fractions by inverting and multiplying
- reducing fractions
Now that they've seen this problem and know how to work it, I have to view it differently. It has to carry less weight if it finds its way on an assessment because now the problem provides its own context for them.
I think that in order for a student to be considered an expert, she needs to demonstrate the ability to do something with the tools beyond what she's been shown. When students encounter a problem on a test that makes them say, "but he didn't show us how to do that in class," that's a good thing.
It's true that standards based grading in math can be more than just reporting specific snippets of content knowledge. (there ya go Matt) It has to be more than just skills because I don't have a problem posting my skills online with examples of how to perform the skill. I don't mind showing them what they need to know and them assessing them on that content. I do mind stopping there. The skills are the floor, not the ceiling.
How we best help students realize they need these skills is a great conversation that I'm looking forward to seeing fleshed out. But I think that there is also a need to discuss not only what exactly we need to assess but how. I'm not of the opinion that we should assess behaviors like organization, responsibility, etc. I do think that we should assess skills that may be consistent throughout our content area but not limited to our specific course.
This leads me back to the assessment question I asked in my previous post. How do I assess this ability to know when and how to put the tools together?
Do I treat it as a skill/standard and allow the score to change as students demonstrate their ability throughout the year?
Is it enough to involve my students in activities that promote problem solving and simply grade them on what I observe in class?
Does it show up in a summative assessment testing multiple skills? If so, do the other "skills" that are on the test tip the student off as to the context of the problem at hand?
Do we use projects for students to demonstrate the ability to put a string of skills together in order to create their own meaning?
Alright, brain's empty. Time to go home.