Whenever Irene, ever the better half of my brain, and I would do work together with any sort of “skill flavor,” Irene would set the bar high. No simple fill-in-the-blanks for us! No match and go! Even in our Edulastic assessments in emergency remote education, when we were far from our kids, with no control over what they were doing, over cheating or access to calculators or whatever, we tried to find some other way to approach the problems. Making that happens begins by shifting the focus off of computation, as much as possible. That’s easier said than done, of course, but one way to approach it is to ask students questions about process, rather than the final answer.
So, flexing my new-found-and-very-weak Desmos skills, I tried a new CardSort on decimal operations. This topic was ripe for this approach, since any basic phone or calculator will run the computations without blinking. How, then do we move to a process approach? My attempt was to make answers that focused on the decimal places in the answers:
Can students do the computations on a calculator to find the answer? Of course! But maybe they will use the attached resource instead…
As I was creating the CardSort, I also learned something new about Desmos–it turns out you can’t have two of the same choice (i.e., “two spaces” twice) because Desmos reads them as different answer choices. Back to the drawing board I went!
I also challenged myself to replace “the answer” with the precise mathematical language. If we always dumb down our words, our students never learn the precise terms such as “product,” “quotient,” “difference,” and “sum.” Modeling and using the accurate terms as frequently as possible leads to a more accurate math learning experience for students, as well as making it more likely they will be successful on standardized tests that expect them to know these terms.
If I, an avowed avoider of Desmos, can make CardSorts, so can anyone! And, with any luck, I’ve made Irene proud of me…
Sample CardSorts created from material Irene and I made for 7th grade:
- Area or Perimeter CardSort
- Matching Equivalent Expressions (based on an activity from Well Played)
- Proportional Equations CardSort