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How to Quickly Assess if Students Understand a Math Skill

In this age of testing, you’re probably thinking, oh great, more math assessments. But hear me out. When you’re trying to find out if a kid knows a math skill, it doesn’t have to be this big assessment with tons of questions.

I’m going to share quick and easy ways to assess students so that you can easily make informed decisions about the next steps.

Each of these ideas won’t work for every math skill. For example, you won’t be able to have kids practice measuring the length of an object on dry-erase boards. But every math skill can be assessed using one of these ideas.

Sticky Note Assessments

Sticky notes are a great tool to have in the classroom. To use them for math assessments, pass out a sticky note to each student. Or they might have a pack of sticky notes that they keep with them. 

Assign a problem or two that assesses the math skill you’re working on. You can write it on the board or project it on a screen. 

Students solve the math problem or problems right on the sticky note and hand it in so you can check their work. 

a white board with sticky notes to for math assessment

You might even have a Show What You Know board where students place their sticky notes. A Show What You Know board is a board made out of poster board or construction paper that has squares with each student’s number on it. 

When students complete their sticky notes they place them on their number. This makes it quick to assess if students are understanding or not understanding the math skill.

To help with sticky notes that may fall off the board and get misplaced, students should write their number on the sticky note. If you’re collecting all the sticky notes directly from students, they’ll need to write their names on them if they don’t have assigned numbers. 

Walk Around the Room

When you’re doing guided or independent practice, walk around the room. You’ll be able to see who is struggling and who is mastering the math skill.

Write down the names of students who are struggling and need more support.

Walking around the room during guided or independent practice also allows you to offer one-on-one help. That might be all a student needs. You can then do a quick sticky note assessment at the end of the lesson to see who might need further instruction in a small group.

a picture of Not Your Average Bingo Multiplication Facts Bingo game

Small-Group Game

Place students in groups and play a math game. You can sit with each group for a few minutes and assess how they’re doing during the game. 

Playing a game allows students that aren’t struggling to practice the math skill in a fun way while allowing you to assess who is struggling.

If you sit with each group for a few minutes, you can assess multiple students at the same time. Because they’re playing a game, students are more likely to be relaxed and show their true performance of mastery. 

Use Dry-Erase Boards 

During whole group lessons, supply each student with a dry-erase board and marker. 

As you teach the math lesson, have students solve the math problems on the boards. After giving an appropriate amount of time, ask the kids to hold up their boards so you can check their work. 

If students are able to do the math work correctly, they have most likely mastered the math skill you are teaching. 

If there are students that are unable to do the math work correctly they’ll need more support either in a small group or one-on-one. If there are kids that are unable to complete the math problems in a timely fashion, you can determine they most likely need more support as well. 

a picture of 3rd grade tests to assess math

Math Quiz

You don’t need to assign a ton of problems in order to assess if students understand a math skill. Give them a sheet with no more than 5 problems on it. 

If they are able to do about 75% of the math problems correctly, they have mastered the math skill. However, if they struggle with half or most of the problems, they’ll need additional help.  

Another advantage to giving them a quiz with only a few problems is you have less to grade. So this makes assessing quick and easy. You can sort the papers into groups – math skill is mastered or not mastered.

There are so many ways to assess math skills that don’t involve lengthy tests. Choose options that work best for you and your students.

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