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What Can Formative Assessment in Mathematics Teach You About How Your Students Learn?

Create a meaningful, data-rich feedback loop of ongoing assessment to accelerate math understanding and achievement.

Students struggle with math for a variety of reasons and, as every teacher knows, there’s no single solution for helping students to comprehend concepts and achieve success. There is, however, a strategy for quickly and accurately understanding where each of your students falls on the learning curve—and personalizing the learning experience on an ongoing basis.

Formative assessment, endorsed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), has been proven to advance both math instructors’ ability to personalize instruction and students’ ability to comprehend complex math concepts. The key is a real-time data-rich feedback loop with ongoing information that both students and teachers can use to better understand and improve the learning experience.

Using formative assessment in face-to-face and digital environments can be a critical strategy in helping students build a solid foundation of math skills. Download our free Teacher’s Guide to Formative Assessment in Mathematics to learn more about how to accelerate algebraic thinking, and help students make the shift to the analytic, qualitative reasoning about values and variables needed to successfully develop algebraic reasoning.

Success Story: Digital Formative Assessment Enables Personalized Learning

Carlton Innovation School in Salem, Massachusetts had the same problem that schools nationwide are facing: meeting rigorous mathematics standards requirements while serving the needs of a diverse population, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners. School administrators decided to invest in digital curriculum for a Blended Learning approach that could help both teachers and students to access and alter the learning goals that lead to achievement in math.

Administrators quickly found that not all digital math curriculum software programs utilize formative assessment in the same way. “The wide range of learners in each classroom makes it difficult to know where each student is in their learning,” says Teegan von Burn, Assistant Principal at Carlton. “To be proactive in meeting all students’ needs we have to access data, but we also need to see quickly what that data means.”

In short, the school needed a digital curriculum that is adaptive enough to meet the needs of each student, and also provides teachers with insights to engage with students in more meaningful ways.

After evaluating a number of digital math curriculum partners, Carlton selected DreamBox Learning Math. The curriculum stood out because it uses formative assessment embedded within and between lessons to create the optimal learning experience for every student. DreamBox designs a custom path for students, monitoring mastery of each objective, and providing support with varying strategies. “DreamBox’s approach is similar to a spider web,” says von Burn. “There are a multitude of ways for the student to progress, but they still end up at the same place—mastery of the assigned standard.”

Students use DreamBox for 20 minutes at a time, at least three times per week, while other students are receiving targeted in-person instruction in small groups. The strategy has been particularly effective during Carlton’s “success block,” which remediates struggling learners with a double dose of support.

Every piece of data collected by DreamBox is transformed into actionable insights that are available at a glance through the Insight Dashboards. These insights help educators know when to intervene and when to celebrate success so they can differentiate classroom instruction more effectively, allowing them to create personalized learning experiences that engage, reach, and teach every student, every day. For more information about Carlton’s success story, read the full case study.

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Continuous formative assessment and actionable data power the personalized learning that leads to achievement for a wide range of students.

Five Benefits of Formative Assessment Software

Administrators and teachers at Carlton learned that, when it comes to formative assessment features, not all digital curriculum products are created equally. Here are the potential benefits of formative assessment software to consider when choosing a mathematics digital curriculum for a blended learning program:

1. Data collection. An engaging, seamless way to collect data to help understand how learners are thinking about math concepts, what strategies they are using, and when they’ve demonstrated proficiency in algebra standards.

2. Insights at a glance. The same continuous formative assessment that delivers personalization of path, pace, and sequence for every learner also captures the instructional insights and learning data needed to make informed decisions about instruction and instructional programming.

3. Facilitate more meaningful conversations among students. Teachers can easily group students for more effective instruction.

4. Ongoing student and class assessment. The means to dive deeper and take action, about how a class is performing against standards.

5. Interactive engagement. An engaging environment that uses digital manipulatives, interactive game-like immersion, and immediate feedback to motivate students to persist without them feeling like they’re being tested.

Download Teacher’s Guide to Formative Assessment in Mathematics learn more about how to accelerate algebraic thinking, and help students make the shift to the analytic, qualitative reasoning about values and variables needed to successfully develop algebraic reasoning.

Stefani Kauppila

Stefani Kauppila

Curriculum Designer at DreamBox Learning, Inc.
Stefani Kauppila is an experienced classroom educator who worked in elementary and middle school settings in Sammamish, Washington, for six years before joining the DreamBox Learning Curriculum Design team in 2014. She earned a Masters degree in Teaching with endorsements in Reading and Language Development and currently holds a Washington State teaching certificate. She works passionately to create innovative math curriculum designed to adapt and individualize learning for all students.
Stefani Kauppila