November 9, 2015

Update: Math Practice Standard Portfolios

In August I had an idea that students could build a portfolio of examples of the standards of mathematical practices. Our first quarter ended on Friday so I gave students the second version I drafted in August. I'd planned to do it earlier, but... it's been a busy quarter. So on the last day of the quarter I told students to clean their binders, choose four examples of good work and describe how they exhibit the math practices on the sheet.

Note! If you tell ninth graders to "clean up" their binders they will hear "clean out" and recycle everything. Even if you have clear instructions on the board about what is okay to recycle and what they need to keep. Organize is a much better word. Lesson learned.

I wanted to give students some examples of what to write. For PreCalc I gave them an example of evidence and I asked which practice it could apply to (multiple! Persevering and using tools are the two I was thinking of). Then I set them loose and they did well. Yay for honors juniors and seniors.

For Algebra I gave them some more specific examples. They still struggled. I walked around reading specific quotes to them "I can discover patterns." - "Can you find a paper in your binder where you found a pattern?" or having them find a paper they were proud of and asking them which practice it applies to (by reading them one at a time). This was kind of painful so in my contained class for students with substantial learning disabilities I took it one step further and we did the whole thing as a class. I read the practice, I read the student friendly quotes, I told them to find an example in their binders of that particular thing. I checked with everyone that they filled in the title and evidence, repeat three more times. For this class I just picked four practices that I knew would be easy to find examples based on the work we had done this quarter so they didn't have as many options. Maybe if I provide some support at the end of second quarter they'll be able to use their exemplars from first semester to work more independently second semester? Seems possible!

I ended up with some great reflection from my PreCalc students. Plus it was interesting to look back at all the work we had accomplished in all my classes and see what students chose as examples of their best work! I would definitely recommend trying this activity with all your classes. If I was doing this again I might try asking students to reflect a few times on what they had done in class that day before jumping directly to reflecting over the whole quarter. I meant to do this, but again with the busy quarter. Luckily there's still most of the year left!

The unit circle is a great example of precision! Several students used their unit circle projects for repeated reasoning.

I had students submit the work sample but this student is correct, not all math practices are visible. Ditto for kids who used tools (like the calculator example above).

Perseverance and growth mindset!

This was pne of the few cases where I needed to read the sample work, this student's explanations got more precise and concise as she figured out which information was important to record.

Using the same work sample for multiple practices was fine with me. In fact, I bet they could have found all four examples they needed this quarter in some projects!


  1. Really like this! Might try it as a weekly thing so that they get used to it. I'll have 9th graders when I get back in February, and they'll likely struggle with it at first, so I like your way of going through as a whole class and checking in as a way to start.

  2. I love this idea! Math journals are a great way for everyone (even me!) to see/realize their learning progress!