Assessing "Math"

For much of educational history, the words "math class" were often said with a glum attitude.  No one ever puts an exclamation point after the words 'math class'.  (Today I went to math class!)  This is tragic because math teaches thinking and logic--something our kids desperately need and the workforce demands. However, dozens of the same math problem every night, lack of real world application, inauthentic worksheets, and rigid solving methods have put a bad taste in the mouth of students when they hear the word math.  Fortunately, many progressive educators are changing this, and Wabash Middle School is lucky to have one. 

When Joey Till designed his class website, he called it "7th Grade ???????".  He didn't even like to use the word math because of the historic negative connotation.  You won't find any worksheets here.  His class is basically made up of math journal projects and math game scores.  He writes the following guest blog:
"Kids in my class are assessed in two ways: 
My students work on individual projects.  When they are finished they “grade out” with me.  They show me their project.  As I am checking their presentation, they explain the math steps to solve a problem or they explain the math vocabulary they learned.  I close their computer and ask a couple of questions to make sure they can verbally explain the math.  They assign a grade based on the quality of the project, how well they understand the information, and timeliness of their work.
On “Game Day” my students work on math games or online activities that they choose from a list.  At the end of class, the students “grade out”.  On these days, the kids write me a little note and give themselves a grade that justifies why they deserve it.  The grade is based on how hard they worked and their overall production during class.
The students in Joey's class personalize every project and find the math in everyday parts of life that interest them.  They stay intrigued and engaged and.... actually look forward to math class.  It even seems weird to type.  Traditionalists might be wondering... "yeah, but how do you know they are learning, what about standardized tests"?  On the last Acuity test (a standardized test similar to ISTEP), 75% of Joey's class are predicted to pass ISTEP.  This is equal to the 2011 state average by the end of the year.  I really look forward to seeing where Joey's experiments will take him in the future.

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