I’m trying to move away from kicking off units with a pen and paper assessment. I do find these can give a quick snapshot of where the students are but, despite the progress we have made with developing a growth mindset, I also find that ….

  • some students can’t do anything and shut down before the unit even starts
  • some students can do everything and are switched off before the unit even starts
  • some students ask to take the assessment home to show their tutor/parent and arrive back at school the next day with lots of tricks up their sleeves but zero conceptual understanding

Benchmarks for Grade 4 addition and subtraction:

  • select, use and record a variety of mental strategies to solve addition and subtraction problems, including word problems, with numbers of up to and including five digits, eg 159 + 23: ‘I added 20 to 159 to get 179, then I added 3 more to get 182’, or use an empty number line
  • use a formal written algorithm to record addition and subtraction calculations involving two-, three-, four- and five-digit numbers

My students are now quite familiar with WODB routine so I thought I’d try using it as a pre-assessment. I wasn’t sure what it would tell me about where the students are now or where to go next but I was sure it wouldn’t be time wasted.

Their written responses were a valuable assessment tool and record but the rich conversations gave me so much more.



What I know:

  • the students are confident with strategies for addition

What I need to find out:

  • What mental/informal strategies are the students using?
  • Can they explain their strategies?
  • Are they choosing efficient strategies?
  • Are they able to use the formal written algorithm?

How am I going to do it?

  • Number talks
  • A dry but informative worksheet – sometimes these just work!

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