[One-Minute Makeover] Algebra 1 • Topic 5 Assessment


It all started with this post, and the most recent assessment adventure is here.

Algebra 1 • Topic 5 Assessment, Before

When I first made the shift to standards based grading, I threw together a list of skills as best as I could. When I considered equations involving absolute value, I figured, “What else would I want them to be able to do beyond solving a simple equation and solving a more advanced equation?” Fool. Anyway, here’s the pair of questions on the original Topic 5 assessment:

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I was actually half-proud of the sequence of lessons I taught leading up to that original assessment. We built (or attempted to build) an understanding of equations involving absolute value by launching from a verbal approach with heaps of number line action, to a graphical approach with fantastic lines of intersection (and this was pre-Desmos!), before finally exploring an algebraic approach (the one and only representation I remember seeing as a student).

At any rate, a mediocre-to-decent set of lessons followed by a decidedly weak assessment left much to be desired.

Algebra 1 • Topic 5 Assessment, After

One issue I found in the original assessment that I tried to address in the update is that I had very little sense of who was struggling with the algebra and who was struggle numerically with the concept of absolute value. In other words, pick a kid who failed the assessment. Was his weakness only in solving equations, or was he unable to even evaluate expressions involving absolute value.

With that question in mind, I added three questions to the front end of the assessment:

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#1-2 are nothing special, but they did give me a better sense of how deep a particular student’s struggles went. And #3 is standard assessment rewrite fodder for me, as you’ve no doubt seen in previous one-minute makeovers. Nothing like a little “explain the error” and “redo it correctly” to see what’s going on inside a student’s head.

The last two questions on the updated assessment are literally cut-and-pasted from the original assessment:

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I decided the main point of this assessment was still, “Can you solve an equation involving absolute value or not?” (Is that a worthwhile goal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.)

Wrap Up

I’m still largely dissatisfied with this assessment, though I don’t really know what to do with it. I feel like our in-class approach to this topic—warts and all—was richer than the assessment would suggest. In the next one-minute makeover I’ll explore some options for incorporating questions that dig into students’ understanding of this topic from a verbal and a graphical approach. And while I’m at it, the quick nod at a numerical approach could be strengthened, possibly by shifting evaluation from out-of-context “Hey, what’s the value of this?” questions to determining whether particular x-values are solutions of a given equation (via substitution).

Interested in the lessons and assignments that preceded this assessment. The brave shall enter through this door.

Anyway, more reflecting and tinkering is on the way. In the meantime, drop your own thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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