The Mathematics Design Collaborative provides teachers not with a math curriculum but with teaching tools called formative assessment lessons — to help them know if their students truly understand the college- and career-readiness math standards they have been taught. Teachers learn to adapt assignments to embed the standards and engage students so that they understand not only the hows of math, but also the whys.
Making Mathematics Matter
MDC uses formative assessment lessons and questions to check students’ math understanding and correct common misunderstandings. Rather than showing them predetermined steps to find an answer, teachers support students in a productive struggle to solve problems. Students participate in individual and group learning activities as they build their confidence and take ownership for their learning. The result: students build fluency with their procedural skills and deepen their mathematical reasoning and understanding.
Formative Assessment Lessons
The underlying strategy is to enable students to understand math concepts and how to put them to use – learning that is often lost when individual procedural skills are the only focus of teaching. FALs follow a common structure:
- Teachers give students an initial assessment task. This gives teachers a sense of their students’ grasp of the math skills and concepts.
- Students immerse themselves in the assessment task through collaborative activities. They work in small groups, engage in discussion and learn from one another. Teachers ask feedback questions to move students forward as they unravel the problems – but they do not give them step-by-step procedures to solve them.
- A whole-class discussion pulls the lesson together, strengthening students’ understanding of the math concepts and allowing teachers deeper insights into their students’ learning gaps. Teachers provide structure and feedback for students to discuss the mathematics and allow students to learn from one another.
- Students return to the initial task to redo the assessment. They apply what they have learned, and students’ work provides teachers feedback on the effectiveness of the instruction.