Applying Scientific Notation - Formative Assessment Lesson

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SWBAT estimate lengths of everyday objects, convert between decimal and scientific notion, and make comparisons of the size of numbers expressed in both decimal and scientific notation

Big Idea

Engage students in a collaborative card match activity that applies decimal and scientific notion to estimate lengths of common objects

Framing the Lesson

20 minutes

Let me begin by suggesting that you watch my introductory video on navigating the Mathematics Assessment Project (MARS) website which is linked to this lesson.  This lesson was taken directly from the MARS website and all lesson materials are located on this website.  The PDF file at the bottom of the webpage is your Teacher Resource Guide and Student Work Pages that I will reference during this lesson plan.  Before you read the narrative of this lesson, you will need to be familiar with the website from which all materials were taken.  I highly recommend this website and the MARS resources in general.  This is a high quality, research based, and common core aligned bank of engaging lessons, assessments, and tasks.

So prior to beginning the lesson today, you have reviewed your students’ pre-assessments to look for common misconceptions that seem to be group wide problems, and you have grouped students homogeneously.  After analyzing the pre-assessments to find common misconceptions, you then created guiding questions to use during the collaborative activity to provide feedback that moves their learning forward.  The teacher guide clearly explains this process and offers suggested guiding questions on pages T-2 and T-3.  I am also including a sample of pre and post assessment work from the same student who completed this same activity in my classroom last year.  The goal of these assessments is to show growth through completing the activity.  The post assessment (which is given at a later time after completing the collaborative activity) may not be perfect, but it should be improved from the pre-assessment.


As students enter the room, begin to group them with their new partner(s).  I usually like to make partnerships, unless a group of students really seem to struggle with a concept.  Then, I might make a group of three for more support.  Remind students of the pre-assessment they took several days ago and that you have reviewed their work to analyze what they understand and what concepts they still need to focus on a little more.  Show them your guiding questions and explain that you have developed these specific questions just for them based on common misconceptions.  The goal of this activity we are about to begin is to learn about these common problems, so by the end of the activity everyone can successfully answer each of these guiding questions.  Explaining the purpose of the guiding questions is also implementing the strategy Clarifying and Sharing Learning Intentions and Criteria for Success.

Framing the collaborative activity is one of the most important steps in preparing students for a productive struggle through the activity instead of a frustrating struggle.  These activities are unique and card match activities such as this one; usually have several sets or layers of cards.  Framing the lessons prepares students’ minds for the work ahead and clarifies the types of questions they will be working with today.   Do not turn the framing of the lesson into a lecture period where you go ahead and re-teach the misconceptions and then the activity becomes the guided practice after your lecture.  These activities are strong and research based.  The activity is designed to do the re-teaching for you of common misconceptions uncovered through researching thousands of students who have completed this assessment before your class.  Do worry about your students and try to make it easier by either re-teaching or modifying the cards.  It is natural to worry about your students when you see mistakes but believe me from experience, your students can handle more rigorous tasks than you think. 


The script for framing the lesson is laid out in detail on pages T-4 and the top of page T-5 in the teacher guide.  You will need white boards for all your students.  Heavy page protectors or even binders with clear plastic overlays work great with dry erase markers as well.  Frame the lesson according to the written plan.

Beginning the Collaborative Activity

25 minutes

Preparation Ahead of Time:


This activity involves cards and matching cards; therefore, you need to make copies and cut copies prior to beginning the lesson today.  I use parent volunteers, aids, office staff, and when desperate students to help cut cards and manage the prep time required.  The card sets to be copied (one set for every group) are located on pages S-2 through S-4.  I usually paper clip each sheet of cards together and place all clipped sets into a large manila envelop.  You want to keep each "type" of card set separate because you give students cards at different times.  So for example, the cards on page S-2 would be cut as one sheet for each group.  I would cut one sheet apart and clip that one sheet with a paper clip (blank cards and all) and then put them in a large enveloped labeled set A.  The cards sets on page S-3 would be copied and cut separately and clipped and placed inside a different envelop labeled as set B.  All this cutting and labeling needs to be completed prior to the day you begin the activity. 


Today, your students will probably only complete card sets A and B.  Student’s work collaboratively to complete set A and then after they finish this set, you bring them set B.  The full instructions for how work with students as they complete each set can be found in the teacher resource guide on pages T-5 and T-6.  The teacher guide fully explains how to use the cards and even has suggested questions for providing feedback to groups as you move about the room assessing and helping students. Your productivity goal for today is to have most groups complete sets A and B, at least most of set B if not all.


Providing feedback that moves learning

Activating students as resources for one another

Cooperative Grouping Explained


Cleaning Up and Storing Cards

5 minutes

I highly suggest watching my short strategy video Storing Small Manipulatives as I make suggestions for sorting and storing cards.  I purchase small manila envelops and place post-it notes on them.  Students write their names on the post-it and store all their cards inside.  I encourage students to label the back of all “matched” cards with a coding system.  One example of coding is to write the letter A on the back of all cards matched together and then write a B on the back of the next set that was matched.  Carefully placing cards in the envelops, which can be reused by simply removing the post-it, is good but coding cards is even better.  I have a set of trays that slide shut and it is where all student work is turned in and envelops are stored overnight.