I’m nearly finished with my math interviews (minus the two who were absent today, of course!) One interview really sticks out because It wasn’t a good interview and I finished it off thinking, “WOW! There are basically no skills here.” Now, this isn’t the first time that has happened to me, and I know what to do about it. It’s just that this child had come to me with comments from last year’s teacher that lead me to expect some skills. So…I went to her for some clarification. She had saved the interview they did together last year in June.

So instead of a score from a test, or a report card mark and comment, I got to see exactly how he had answered the questions she had asked. In our board, there is a set of interview questions that most people use, and she had used those. I use different ones, but have been choosing 3 or 4 of my students as “marker” students, and I do this longer interview with them so I can have the same data as my colleagues for some discussions in the building. I was so grateful that my colleague still had the exact interview sheet lying around, and wondered why I hadn’t thought to keep more of them. Likely because I have decided not to be a hoarder in my classroom, which is an important goal, but at times like this I question my reliability as a goal setter.

This weekend, one of my school jobs is to go through my interviews and sort the data. The board math people (I can’t ever remember all the job titles) have provided us with a tracking sheet. I haven’t spent any time really looking at it, but I’ll probably give it a go so I can use it to participate in math conversations in our building. I also need to plot everyone on the Landscape of Learning. Even though I feel pretty confident about my decision to start with the “Collecting and Organizing” Context for Learning unit, I have this niggling suspicion that I will maybe have to run two units at once because a few of my friends are in a very different place than the rest of us. That’s the beauty of the Landscape! I will know who needs to start here, and who needs to start there. It’s a counting unit though, so I think it will be the only one for now.

I know that people love Teachers Pay Teachers units. They are super easy to print and photocopy. And I know it’s much easier to mark 10-20 questions on a math test or quiz than it is to conduct individual interviews and then plot each individual on the Landscape. But when I am considering taking some assessment shortcuts, I can’t stop thinking about a girl I taught a few years ago.

In grade 4, I gave everyone a quick multiplication sheet so they could do some practicing. She got every single question right! But along with the quiz, she had also been working on a separate sheet of paper. I knew she was drawing pictures to solve some problems. But when I sat down to look at everyone’s work, I realized she had drawn a picture for every single question. For 8×7 she drew a picture, which is fine because 8×7 can be tricky. But for 2×2 she also drew a picture. And for 1x 6 and for 3×3, and on and on. Her score said “Level 4”, her drawings said “Level 2…maybe actually 1”. And back to my friend from this morning – I would have had to consider that child a “beginning” mathematician at best, but thanks to information that came out in interviews with his previous teacher, I know him to be much more.

In conclusion, I’m busy too, but I make time for this even though “all the other kids” get a bit loud playing their games, and they spent more time on Dreambox this week than they’ll spend in a single week for the rest of the year. It’s time well spent.