We know that within every class, our students have a range of abilities. This is certainly true when it comes to math. We also know we need to differentiate math lessons to meet our students where they are, but we don’t always know how or where to start when it comes to planning.
Enter math pre-assessment!
Using a pre-test to gauge students’ understanding of content and skills is a HUGE part of how I plan math instruction. Math pre-assessments help me see where my students are before I even begin planning a unit. And these little snapshots make it so much easier to:
- know which skills to hit harder and which to review more quickly
- set pacing
- choose resources and plan differentiated lessons
- make my planning more focused
But it took me some time to figure out how to implement a pre-assessment strategy that worked.
Where I Started
At first, I created long paper-and-pencil tests with open-ended questions that covered every standard for the whole year. I gave it to students during the first week of school and checked it off the to-do list.
Why doesn’t this work??
- it’s overwhelming for students
- it’s time-consuming to grade
- it doesn’t account for the student growth that will occur during the year (so the data gets outdated)
Over time, I figured out that what I needed was targeted, shorter pre-assessments that focused on specific standards or topics. And by giving a pre-test right before each unit, I knew I was getting real-time data to plan instruction.
These shorter pre-tests were a big improvement, but they still took a long time to grade. Enter Google Apps™!
Going Digital with Math Pre-Tests
Once I began using digital pre-assessments for my students, I never looked back. My favorite is using short, standards-based quizzes in Google Forms™. Google Forms is self-grading, so I saved tons of time. Plus, since it’s paperless, I didn’t have to lug home a huge stack of tests or wait forever at the copier.
Another bonus of going digital with pre-tests is that it helps familiarize students with the online testing environment. You can include some questions that get them using TEI skills, too.
Using the Information from Digital Pre-Assessments
Google Forms makes it super easy to analyze data! Each Form collects students’ responses in a spreadsheet, so it’s easy to see trends across the whole class and identify strengths and gaps for individual students. (Plus, there are pretty graphs LOL.)
Another thing I loved about making the switch to Google Forms was that I could share data easily with my teammates. This makes planning a lot easier when you’re looking at pacing, forming small groups, planning workshop rotations, and more.
Tips for Using Digital Math Pre-Assessments
- I recommend giving students practice time with the digital format and tools. This is especially true at the beginning of the year so you can be sure you’re assessing their math knowledge, not their technology skills.
- Keep it short and focused on a particular unit or topic. I like a max of 15 questions.
- Multiple-choice, true/false, and short answer responses are self-grading and a huge time saver!
- Consider additional ways you can use each math pre-assessment. Think unit review activities, spring math test prep… You can even tweak the questions and use them again for a post-test!
No-Prep Digital Math Pre-Tests
To save yourself time, you can check out my digital math pre-tests that are ready to go in Google Forms. These support the Virginia Math SOLs and hit all the standards for the whole year!
Using digital math pre-tests in my 4th grade classroom was a huge game-changer for me. If you’ve been thinking about going paperless with your pre-tests, I hope you’ve found some helpful tips here!