Targeting for Success in Math

Over at Scholastic’s Math Hub, Carolyn Kaemmer has an interesting interview with Harvard psychologist,  Dr. Jon Star on conceptual understanding in math.  In the interview, Dr. Star tackles the controversial distinction between ‘knowing versus doing’ in mathematics, e.g. does the math student really understand what they’re doing or just following a process.  Star argues that a student’s math performance can, in fact, be determined through various modes of assessment, including multiple choice tests, though he qualifies his argument with the requirement that the assessment prompts need to be carefully designed.

The Quantile Framework is directly relevant here.  Unfortunately, assessments often fail to inform classroom teachers of their students needs or of their progress in mathematical development.  When summative assessments offer a Quantile measure for the test-taker, however, the teacher has information that is instructionally actionable.  The Quantile Framework for Mathematics helps the educator to determine the material that various students in the classroom are ready to learn when the Quantile measure of the student closely matches the Quantile measure of the skill or concept. When such a match occurs, students will perform more successfully and develop more confidence in their mathematics ability.

Educators have a rich resource in the website for The Quantile Framework for Mathematics. By accessing a state curriculum at a specific level, the skills and concepts that align to the state goals are uploaded. Each skill and concept has a Quantile measure that is on the same scale as the student Quantile measure. Using the website informs teachers of which students are ready for instruction on the specific skill based upon the student Quantile measure.  Even if students do not have a Quantile measure, a classroom teacher who knows the skill demands of lessons from one day to the next has a better perspective of the expectations for their students

In addition to both a conceptual and procedural focus, successful math instruction involves targeting students at their current level.  A student who has opportunities for a more successful experience will have the confidence to explore and meet the challenges of the puzzles and patterns that accompany mathematical thinking.

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