By Tom

I picked this session because I basically know nothing about MDC. So since I know nothing, this is where I belong. Our presenter was Paige Graiser, from Georgia. She’s a high school math teacher.

She started off by telling us that LDC and MDC have nothing in common other than both offer ways to incorporate the standards into our teaching practice, and shift the focus to deeper learning and more rigor. (MDC stands for Math Design Collaborative, by the way.)

Paige got things rolling with a quick review of the CCSS math standards and the tests that will measure them. The standards are a blueprint, or framework, for teaching math. They don’t tell us how to teach them

MDC was funded by the Gates Foundation as a vehicle for teaching the Common Core Math Standards. Assessments come in two forms; formative and summative. Formative assessments, done correctly, should guide future teaching. Summative assessments come at the end of the unit. Paige put it this way: formative assessments are like going to the doctor for a check-up; summative assessments are like an autopsy.

She described five strategies of formative assessment:

-clarifying and sharing learning intention and criteria for success

-engineering effective discussion, questions and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning

-provide feedback that moves learning forward

-activate students as owners of their own learning

-activate students as instructional resources for each other

These steps are supposed to get kids to engage in a productive struggle with math. One tip she shared was to always help a student by asking a question, not giving a statement. Our job is to encourage thinking, not give answers.

MDC is a series a formative assessment lessons (FALs). It’s a series of short-cycle tasks designed for grades 6-12. These lessons are not stand-alone. They should be embedded into a tradition unit of instruction. An MDC lesson should come toward the end of a unit, before the summative assessment. It helps students understand what they don’t know. Based on the data, the teacher then spends the next part of the unit reteaching or fine-tuning that students on the material with which they struggled. After this reteaching phase, the teacher then assigns the summative assessment.

Each MDC lesson begins with an independent pre-assessment. Teachers then look for OMGs: obstacles, misconceptions and gaps; and form pairs of like-ability students. The MDC lessons begin with a whole-class discussion followed by an activity that involves matching cards. Apparently the lessons themselves are available somewhere on the Mathematics Assessment Project website.

Paige described which FALs are best to start with, emphasizing that we shouldn’t stick to just those that were designed for a specific grade. She also introduced a set of norms for pair work.

This session was fun. I now have a basic understand of MDC. I’m pleased to see that I already practice the five steps described above in my classroom. Although MDC isn’t available for my grade level (fourth) I can easily employ the principle by giving a formative assessment at the end of the unit and designing my own activities to reteach the students before giving the summative.

### Tom White

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Chris Gustafson says

Looks like the five strategies could be applied to other content areas besides math. How encouraging to see that math students are to struggle with questions, not just plug in numbers to get answers.

Anonymous says

Looks like the five steps could easily be applied to content other than math. How encouraging to see students are to struggle with process instead of plugging in numbers to get he right answers.

Kelly Stidham says

I LOVE the emphasis on the 5 Strategies that form the Theory of Action for MDC. This anchor helps me reflect on my habits. What do I do that helps activate students? What do I do that hinders? What are the decisions written into the lessons that I can make part of my day to day, minute to minute script?