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On September 11, 2012, Drexel University ran a feature in the DrexelNow publication focused on our EnCoMPASS grant! We have begun meeting each Friday since then to start to formulate our work. During one of our first meetings, Annie Fetter started telling the group about how the Math Forum’s Problems of the Week (PoW) rubric first started.

Annie: I can still remember when Suzanne and I sat in this room for the entire day and asked ourselves “What do we value in students’ problem-solving work?” We decided that both problem solving and communication should be valued and, in the end, we had three sections for each for a total of six, including interpretation, strategy, accuracy, completeness, clarity, and reflection.

Suzanne: And I remember when we first started writing the problem-specific rubrics, we talked a lot about “double dipping.” A problem solver might be scored as a “practitioner” in Completeness or Clarity even if the problem had been scored as a “novice” in Interpretation or Strategy.

Both Annie and Suzanne have given workshops on using rubrics, including:

Assessing Problem Solving and Writing With Constructed Response Problems
Constructed response problems give unique insight into students’ mathematical understanding. A rubric that addresses problem solving and communication also provides structure for assessing student work and driving instruction.

Moving Beyond the Right Answer: Developing Students’ Math Communication Skills
The Math Forum’s rubric emphasizes a combination of problem solving and strong mathematical communication. We’ll share stories from online and classroom exchanges illustrating how we help students develop these skills.

During another Friday meeting someone noticed that we refer to our rubric as a  “scoring” rubric and not a “grading” rubric. Suzanne explained that when a Math Forum staff member views (or listens) to student thinking, our focus is on what to value. We’re not looking for ideas to mark wrong, but instead, for ideas that are good starting points of mathematical thinking. We score students’ problem solving and communication efforts to give an indication of where they are in the process but our ultimate goal is to provide just the right amount of feedback to encourage the student to reflect, revise, and continue in their problem solving process.

After these and other conversations during our Friday meetings we have been shifting our focus from the more limited thought of producing rubrics to a more encompassing topic of formative assessment. What environments associated with the Problems of the Week might make it easier for teachers to provide feedback on specific problems? How might they share what they’re doing, and build up a stable of likely comments and feedback to students that everyone can use to encourage their students to persevere and improve their mathematical thinking?

Scoring rubrics and the role they play in formative assessment, problem solving, and communication are becoming increasingly important to the development and strengthening of our students’ mathematical practices as the Common Core State Standards are implemented. And so we are also interested in how an online process of creating, sharing, discussing, and using formative assessments might help all of us have a professional community through which we feel supported and that supports our professional development.

As members of the PoW Community, you may have been using both the general rubrics that we provide and also the problem-specific rubrics linked from many of our problems. You may have stories to share about how you and your students use the Math Forum’s PoW rubrics or other rubrics that are part of your curriculum.

Some of the questions we have been asking ourselves include:

  • Are our PoW rubrics used by teachers? How?
  • Do teachers prefer to create their own rubrics to assess their students’ work? Are our rubrics helpful starting points?
  • If teachers are assessing student work using their own rubrics, what is their process and how are they using them?
  • Are teachers more focused on “scoring” or “grading” their students?
  • Are teachers involving students in the process? How?
  • What formative assessment activities are offered at schools and/or districts?
  • Are rubrics helping teachers to differentiate instruction? What successes have they experienced? What challenges have they encountered?

We are planning two initial grant-funded activities that will involve teacher participation. As we add more details, the information on this page will be updated:

If you would like to be notified of the updates, please provide us with your contact information by filling in the fields on that webpage.