Today, I presented my students with a challenge. In their mind, they were just making pictures using base 10 blocks. In essence, yes, that’s what they were doing. In my mind, however, they were taking their first math test of the school year.
We have worked on place value (ones and tens) since the beginning of the school year. Kids are improving in their grasp of the concepts, which perhaps I have not always done the best job of helping them understand. On day one, we looked at a 100s grid (our school is pushing them big time this year), and practiced counting by 2s and then 10s. When I tried to transition from 0-10-20-30-40…100 to more difficult tasks like 3-13-23-33… it was difficult. I guess I had to get back into teaching mode, so I scrapped this for base 10 blocks (which are obviously more concrete). This unlocked something in most.
Inspiration struck one day when, before the lesson, I told kids to take 5 minutes to play with the blocks (just to get it out of their system). I noticed they began to build sculptures with them. I capitalized on this the next day and asked them to make sculptures again. This time, we counted the blocks by 10s and 1s to see the total value.
I spun this into today when I provided the class with nine paper 10s and nine paper ones, which they had to color and cut out. Their challenge was to use all or some of those paper base 10 blocks to create a scene on paper. I modeled with a baseball field and encouraged them to create their own scene, rather than copy mine.
They were thrilled to do so. It was silent in the room (in a great way, because they were so invested in their work). And, to be sure, they came up with some amazing products.
Tomorrow, I will ask them to complete a sheet (this becomes the real assessment) in which they indicate how many tens and ones are in their scene. They then, simply, have to write how they figured out their answer (math writing is another big push this year, and I am amazed how much my kids enjoy it so far).
This isn’t a quiz or a test in the traditional sense, but it is an authentic assessment to see how independent students are with the topic. I am much happier to give this assignment to them than the other options. This keeps school fun, active, and creative, and that is so very important for kids with disabilities.