In latest issue of Educational Leadership Marilyn Burns (founder of Math Solutions, (www.mathsolutions.com) wrote an article that highlights an assessment strategy in Mathematics that departs from our more recent assessment strategies. She discussed how the Common Core State Standards for mathematics will require teacher to strengthen students' numerical reasoning and mental math skills.
After reading this article and reflecting on my observations in classrooms I started to make a connection to the significance of assessing mental computation. Knowledge of how a student mentally computes math problems would provide a wealth of information for teachers. This formative assessment strategy would not only provide insight into the strategies utilized by your students but it would also assess their development of this important life skill.
"Solving math problems mentally too often receives limited attention in classrooms compared with paper and pencil computation. Although developing written computation skills is important, mental computation helps develop facility with many of the practice standards - for example, reasoning quantitatively, constructing a viable argument, and looking for and making use of structure." (Burns, 2012)
Ms Burns has developed a free online tool to assess math reasoning. This tool requires short 10 minute interviews as well as independent paper based computation by the student. At the completion of the assessment the teacher is provided with an analysis of the students math reasoning skill. The entire program includes video tutorials, assessment rubrics and explanations of reports.
This individualized, verbal assessment strategy appears to be a great resource for teachers in grades 5-8.
Burns, Marilyn. "Educational Leadership." Educational Leadership. 70.4 (2012): 42-46. Print.
Image - http://mathandtech.pbworks.com/f/1268839944/math_art.gif