Book Study – Mathematical Mindsets Chapter 8

We’re nearing the end of this life-changing book.  I’m excited and sad as I get closer and closer.  I’ve been waiting for this chapter since the beginning.

I’m all about all of the methods and thinking encouraged in the book, but how do you assess?  I’m not a fan of grades, but I have to give them.  How do I do so and stay true to what we know is best for kids?

Read on, friends…


Grades (letters and numbers) are bad for kids.  They encourage a fixed mindset as students see them as a definitive stance on who they are and what they know.  A grade is a final comment, not a formative one.

My Big Takeaway
I’ve struggled with giving grades over the past year or so.  I don’t think they measure what is important about a student, and I don’t think they reflect what a student truly knows and can do.
I usually give students second (or even third chances, if they need them) to correct and fix their work.  I began developing grading rubrics and checklists with students.  (They are so much harder on themselves and set much stricter expectations than teachers do!)   I ask students to reflect on their work and growth and take that into account.  I’ve started moving towards standards-based grading, especially in math.

I haven’t gone far enough, though.  I still write a number on student papers.  I’m going to stop doing that.  I’m going to write feedback on their papers, but keep the measurement portion to myself.  In the end, I do have to put a grade on the report card.  I don’t want it to be a surprise, though.  I’m going to ask them to reflect and communicate their own understanding of each standard and write my feedback alongside theirs.  That way they’ll know ahead of the report card if their grade reflects less than mastery.

Three Important Quotes

Right?  We all know this.  I think I might print this out poster-size and post it above my classroom door.  As I’ve said in previous posts, often what we do as teachers has to do with what is best for us.  It isn’t (and shouldn’t be) about us (or what’s easy)…it is (and should be) about what’s best for kids.  Every day.

In the end, though, they have to take that test, right?  I’m hoping that the items on the test will be a piece of cake after all of the well-crafted, open-ended tasks and meaningful feedback that they get.  But what if they’re not?  That’s hard.

Do I think real problem solving and mathematical understanding is more important than some multiple choice test?  Absolutely.  Do I think my students are more than a letter grade or a number?  Absolutely.  Am I judged by my test scores?  Absolutely.

I feel like it’s a total cop-out to say that test scores don’t matter and that I’m on the side of right.  What I’m hoping is that I get to teach math in this fabulous way AND my end-of-grade scores will be awesome.  Only time will tell.

So powerful.  That tiny (or big) number that we write on their paper can be so damaging.  Even if it’s a “good” one.  I don’t want to be the cause of any damage.  I’m going to work hard to change my practice.

Final Thoughts
Again, friends…  It’s all on us.  We have to do what’s best for kids.  It isn’t about what’s easy for us…it’s about what will help our students grow the most.  We have to find a way to do what’s best for kids within the confines of our school/district policies.  We have to.

What changes will you make?


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