It seems traditional to start the math year off with a BANG and having a nice, quiet, individual test.  That’s how to get kids PUMPED about math, right?  tests tests hurray boo rah!  But I kind of did want to know what they knew, so I made up a bunch of questions about stuff my students supposedly learned last year anyway.  I decided to let them do it in partners.  Each pair got one packet and I said “hey I want to see both your handwritings kay?” but gave them an individual reflection sheet in order to see if Jim-Bob actually had no idea what was happening but got lucky with his partner.

Here’s the one for my precalc class:

And honors algebra 2:


And algebra 1:


It went pretty well.  They seemed to remember a bunch and weren’t intimidated and worked nicely with each other.  I tried to focus on still giving them more advanced, problem-solving questions rather than simple recall stuff.  (My questions weren’t brilliant or anything, though.)  Even though I was a little worried that would be too much, since it had been awhile, I had high hopes since they had been really open to answering the weird first day question, and they definitely kept up the can-do attitude and barely even whined!

The reflection sheets did totally bomb, though.  As in, they did them, but

a) they didn’t care about them

b) some of them didn’t fill them out, or did quickly at the end

c) some of the partners just wrote the exact same things as each other

d) I didn’t really get much information out of them.

Here’s the reflection sheet for the precalculus class:

The last questions were more general questions about how they are as students in general, which were maybe more helpful.  Or maybe not?  I think to make any of this more helpful, I need to really teach them how to self-reflect.  I need to give them feedback and some really reason to get better at it.

But I did definitely get to know how they did individually just because of going around and helping out/responding to questions as they worked on the packet.  So in that sense it was okay that the reflection sheet didn’t work, though I would like to learn how to do that well anyway, for the future and my growth as an educator etc.

Separate from the question of figuring out what my students know, the packets were a nice way to start introducing the topics from the first chapters.  Even though it seemed like we spent about 2.5 classes on them, we actually got a nice intro on most of the stuff in the first units in precalc and algebra 2.  I didn’t even realize that in advance, but it was a nice surprise when I was looking through my tests from last year and realized that my students had already been working with most of the concepts already.

Other things that have been happening:

-we’re going to do a portfolio!  based on building nice mathy habits

-we’ve been starting class with fun patterns and puzzles and they’ve been getting nicely into it all.

Alright everybody let’s do math!  Yeah!

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