Day 89 – Problem Solving Assessment and Paddle Design



Math 8 – Today was very busy. First I had students complete an assessment on problem solving.  I asked kids to complete their own individual work for 10 minutes and then I then I put them into random groups and had them work on it together. Finally they were asked to reflect on the process.

The assessment had some good and bad. On the bad side, the problem was probably too difficult. Many groups did not get very far.  The easiest solution was to use trial and error, and a couple of students solved it by writing out an equation.  Some students/groups started with trial and error and then identified a pattern that helped them.

Because of our previous fraction problem, lots of kids got trapped into trying to work backwards, which really isn’t the way forward. I think this activity would be really good if a better problem was given: something with a lower floor but high ceiling.


The students also were given the start of an on-going project that we’ll work on.  They are using measurement and proportional reasoning to size their personal Greenland paddle.  Later in the year we will take these measurements and model them in Onshape and 3D print them.

To properly complete the Greenland paddle, complete design schematics are needed.

Links: problem assessment sheet,      Greenland paddle

Day 81 – Quizzes in Math


Math 8 – A classic day of assessment in math class.  Although I try to have the students do some other assessments via projects, most of our assessment is through quizzes. I’m ok with that.  The classes are getting a good selection of projects/problems/knowledge/skills.

All my quizzes in Math (and physics) are used within a Standards Based Grading (SBG) system.

Day 13 – First Look at SBG

Math 8 – Students had their first short quiz today and I introduced them to SBG. Some kids got what I was putting down but I think many are still unsure of what I’m talking about. However, this will sort it out over the coming weeks as we do more assessments.

For a breakdown of my grading scheme, take a look at my physicsoflearning blog post on it.

Day 111 – Experimental Design Test


Science 8 – Students had 20 minutes today to be tested on their ability to come up with an experiment using the Smarter Science framework. The scenario I presented to them was: I pulled a wooden block along a desk surface with a spring gauge. Above is the rubric I will use for grading their work.

Day 110 – Transfer Task

Physics 11 – Today my students worked on their Transfer Task for Term 2. This one was a goal-less problem. The idea for transfer tasks is as follows. The learning objectives cover the basic concepts and skills that my students should know, but this doesn’t mean they are experts. In other words, to get the very best grades in physics, up to 100%, students should do more than the basics.

With SBG, for each learning objective I ask students to answer several questions in a row with no mistakes in order to “master” an objective. For this to be a reasonable goal, I cannot ask the hardest questions. If I did, almost no one would master any objective. Coupled with this is the idea that students should have some kind of performance for each unit. Something that requires them to take what they’ve learned and do something new with it. Enter “the transfer task.”

Anyways, the video above is their homework. I’m asking them to be proficient in conservation of energy questions and we’ve already spent significant class time on this.  For those that need help, I’ve made this tutorial video.

Day 102 – Reason #102 Why I Like SBG

Physics 11 – Today I had a student that has his ups and downs in physics come by and be assessed on a couple of learning objectives. I know that he knows more than what he shows in testing and I just have to draw it out of him. I was able to give him several situations where he had to draw the force diagram and tell me if the forces were balanced or not. He would work through them, talking while he thought about his answers, correcting himself as he went. He did very well on both of these objectives and I was able to score both objectives as Mastered.

With SBG I can do this type of assessment quite easily. It’s not about how many points the test is out of, I don’t need to give him a “chapter test”, etc. He identified two objectives he was ready to be assessed on, and that’s what happened.

My students have a grade/list of assessments that tell anyone what they know in physics. It doesn’t rate the students, it doesn’t judge how fast they learned it, or how many times they failed. If someone wants to assess them on those qualities, they are more than welcome to do it, but I’m not going to.

Day 74 – Trying to be Clear


Science 9 – I’ve been trying to be extremely clear with my students on what their learning outcomes are and what they’re responsible for knowing for quizzes. They’re doing a unit on reproduction, and there are a gazillion small facts that could be tested. However, while we work through these details as part of scientific literacy and understanding, I’m emphasizing that there are a few key ideas to know, understand and be assessed on. For example, while there are several steps and activities inside the nucleus during mitosis, what I really want them to know is the function of mitosis, which can be summarized in one or two sentences.

Day 16: Introducing SBG

All four of my classes today were introduced to my flavour of Standards Based Grading.  The grade 11 students were pretty interested in it, whereas the grade 8 students didn’t seem to care one way or the other.  That doesn’t surprise me, as I’ve noticed that the younger the students, the less they care about how their grade is calculated or how learning is measured.  The 8’s are still fairly bright eyed and bushy-tailed, and are genuinely interested in what we’re doing and not what their grade is.


Our learning objectives will be graded on a scale of 1 to 3, where their mark will ultimately be calculated from the final grade they achieve.

Day 11: Burnin’ Up

Today in science 9 we had our first introduction to SBG. Students wrote a short quiz with 7 questions and 2 learning objectives. While self-marking, overheard comments were things like “I got 6 out of 7”, or “is this only 1/2 a mark off?”

Once presented with the SBG scheme, the usual silence ensued followed with the obligatory question “so by the end of the year, it’s possible for me to get 100%?”

The last 20 minutes of class was spent good over Bunsen burners with kids frantically trying to get a spark with their strikes. Press harder kids, press harder.