The first part of today's class is for Patterns Quiz #1. As students enter the room, I remind them that the quiz is happening and that they may use their notes. I say that we're going to get started as soon as the bell rings.
It's already the tenth day of school, and we're just getting to our first assessment! That's ok: what starts at a slow space will speed up gradually as the year continues, to the point where there will be several quizzes per week by the end of the semester. That's part and parcel with my implementation of mastery-based grading.
Because this is the first quiz of the year, there are few things I want to make sure that students know:
I want to know what my students currently know about patterns. This quiz will also serve as a baseline for how these students perform on assessments like this. But today is as much about continuing to build the culture of hard work and self-efficacy that I strive to foster in my classroom. I want all students to understand the role that hard work and honest effort will play in this class. If that tone is set by the end of September, then we'll be able to have some fun for the rest of the year.
On the quiz itself are a variety of versions of patterns problems that lay groundwork for thinking about linear functions. For now, I'm only assessing this quiz on Mathematical Practice 2, even though these sorts of problems will later be used for a variety of content standards.
I expect this quiz to take about 20 minutes for most students. Some will be done in as little as 10, others may take the entire period. I allow each student the time they need, and of course, this is yet another chance to learn about the kids with whom I'll be spending the year.
One more practical note related to printing. The document on which the quiz appears (Patterns Quiz 1.pdf) can be printed double-sided, then cut in half, which makes half-sized, double-sided sheets.
As each student submits their quiz, I remind them that the Number Trick Project is due tomorrow and I ask if they have any questions about how to complete it. I point to the extra sheets of ledger paper on the side table, for anyone who needs it.
When everyone is done with the quiz (with somewhere between 5 and 20 minutes left in class), I say that everyone will have the first five minutes of class to hand this project in tomorrow, and then we're going to move on. If anyone asks, I say that I will accept late work, but that there will be grade deductions for that. I keep that last statement brief and purposefully vague. I'm much more interested in seeing good work than being a stickler about deadlines, and I've found that less I make an issue out of it, the less of an issue it becomes.
The Number Trick Project as a Formative Assessment
Here's the thing about this project: it's really just a giant formative assessment. For many students, the work is a mess, and this is not what they expected from a high school math class. I get to see what habits of work and craftsmanship my students bring to the table. In general, it's hard work to establish a culture of critique, feedback, and revision. But this project frames that work perfectly: we're within the first few weeks of freshman year, and kids are handing in a project. Are they all submitted? Maybe not. Are they all perfect? No. But -- the stage is set, and work is getting done. When it comes to a "baseline assessment", I'll take this over a multiple choice diagnostic exam any day. As a class, if we can look at the caliber of work that comes in now, and compare it to some real, thoughtful stuff at the end of the year, then that's fantastic.