Thursday, January 31, 2013

Differentiating Math Assessments Made Easy!

One more day to go till the weekend! I wanted to write a quick post to share with you an easy way to differentiate math assessments for students with IEPs. First, I must tell you this was not my idea or my work. I was in a fellow teacher's (4th grade) room when I saw this on a student's desk. I was immediately impressed and knew I had to share it! I have always modified assessments for students in the past by removing choices and only having them complete a smaller number of questions. However, this teacher (Ms. Durst, by the way) really took it to the next level.

Take a look!

Here is what I LOVED:

  1. The student has an IEP to use a calculator. She prompted the student to use one where it was needed.
  2. She underlined or circled key words in the word problems and wrote out the necessary equation for the students. The students can see the key words and the equation and make the connection!
  3. On number 6, I love how she put the operation, but still required the student to fill in the necessary numbers.
  4. On number 10, she walked them through the strategy of rounding by giving them choices and providing steps and the blank lines and operation sign.
When I talked with her about this, she said that she spends time before the assessment going over each problem and the modifications she added. She ensures the student understands the modifications and how they relate to the problem.

Now, obviously, this child needs a lot of modification and support but this manner of differentiation could easily be replicated to meet the variety of needs in any classroom. I really felt like this way was still, in a way, teaching the student while they were being assessed. I don't know about you, but I love it!

What are some ways that you differentiate math assessments in your classroom? I would love to read your ideas!

post signature


  1. That's such a great idea! I have two friends (who have mainly reading LDs), who will get the test read to them if it is wordy. I usually cross off problems for them...especially if it is all the same type of problem (instead of 12 long division problem, do 9 or 8), as well as eliminating one wrong answer. Thanks for sharing!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

  2. Love it! I especially like how she clarified the rounding. It is obvious that she knows her students and what they are able to be successful at. Great share!

    My Teacher Friend

  3. Jennifer--this is awesome. I'm bookmarking for future reference :)

  4. Wow, this really is a great model for modifying. I'm going to share this with the Special Ed teacher I work with to see which types we can use. I can think of a student I had last year who could benefit from this level of modification.

  5. I really like the way the teacher modified the existing test instead of creating a totally different test for their student. I would be curious to know if the student is allowed to use a calculator on testing.

  6. Some thoughts from a high school math teacher that struggles with modifying...Is the purpose of modification to eliminate testing of a certain skill or is the purpose to still test that skill but perhaps at an easier level? From the displayed test, it seems as if the purpose is to eliminate testing of a certain skill. In which case, I think Ms.Moricz' comment hits the nail on the head about modifying the existing test, as it would seem to avoid singling that student out for his or her IEP.
    However, I'm concerned that maybe the purpose of a modification ISN'T to eliminate assessing certain skills. Some examples to clarify what I'm asking (please keep in mind that I have no idea which common core skill these are associated with, so I'm making some assumptions):
    #5 would seem to be assessing students on their ability to read a word problem and determine what math operation(s) would apply to the situation. However, the given modification eliminates that and turns it into a basic problem like #1-2. Would perhaps a modification in the form of a picture of 7 gifts with a price tag on each showing $4 still assess the skill of determining the appropriate math operation(s) to use?
    I have the same question with #8. It would seem to be assessing students on their ability to calculate the area of a given shape, I'm assusming we want them to actually KNOW something about that shape. However the given modification is again reducing it to a basic problem like #1-2. Could an alternate modification be a reminder that area of a rectangle is length*width? OR perhaps a bit more rigor would be to give the area formulas for a few different shapes and the student must choose which one applies to the given shape and then use it?
    #9 would seem to be assessing students on their ability to understand place value vocabulary. However, by underlining the place value to focus on, the problem is now simply comparing two single digit numbers (less than/greater than). Would perhaps a modfication either smaller numbers with no underlining OR having it be a two part question with the first part of the question just labeling of each place value (and the choices can come from a vocabulary bank) and THEN the follow up question with no underlining?
    Again, I'd really like to re-iterate that I have NO CLUE what the standards are at this level, but I'm concerned that the modifications lead to inaccurate reporting of what this student actually knows...
    On a side note, I think the modifications for #6 is great (the student must still demonstrate the skill of reading a graph) and so is #10 (the student must still demonstrate the skill of rounding - however, not the skill of knowing hundreds place). Eliminating an answer choice seems to be helpful in not altering the skill being assessed - AS LONG AS the answer choice eliminated isn't the most highly picked wrong answer.

    1. The purpose of modifying curriculum, according to FAPE, is to make an adjustment to an assignment or a test that changes the standard of measurement for the task. Modifications does change the material that the student is learning but simply breaking down the standard into the basics necessary to master the core of the topic.

      Take a standard on multiplying 3-digit numbers for example. The CCSS 4.OA.3 states that a student should solve multi-step word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies.

      So a modification of this could be:
      1. A student will read a multi-step word problem and identify what operation(s) are being used. Once this was mastered they could move into setting up the givent equation to solve the problem and then even further by solving it through pencil/paper calculation o even by a calculator.

      2. Identify the "missing part" of an equation through manipulatives. 24 / x (could be represented as an empty space) = 12 and this can be visually done using unifix cubes or any manipulative for that manner.

      3. Students can be given an accommodation of using a calculator to determine reasonableness of an answer and then a hundreds chart to determine rounding rules.

      It's imperative to know the difference between accommodations and modifications and actually most of what the teacher had done in the picture above are accommodations as they were simply helping the student complete the tasks that the other peers were doing with out the assistance.

      Jennifer Smith-Sloane


To Teach is to Inspire...