Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 1 - Critical Issues in Mathematics Education (MSRI 2013)

Normally, all of San Francisco and the Golden Gate is visible from MSRI, but not today.  It's foggy and rainy in the Bay Area today.  Fortunately, someone offered me a ride up the hill to MSRI, and I didn't have to do the 25 minute walk to catch the shuttle.

The basic format of the day is to alternate meeting in the MSRI Simons Auditorium for a one-hour talk with working in our breakout groups to design assessment items.  The talks included Dissolving the boundaries (Bill McCallum and Jason Zimba), Assessment in practice: Use, needs, and examples (Eyal Wallenberg, Melanie Smith, David Baiz, & Jonathan Osler), Assessing complex human practices (Eva Baker), Assessment ABCs: Purpose, design, and examples (Mike Briscoe, Guillermo Solano-Flores, & Ann Shannon), and PARCC: Challenges taken on and progress to date (Doug Sovde).  McCallum and Zimba set the general tone of the day.  Wallenberg, Smith, Baiz, and  Osler gave an a view of assessment from the trenches.  What problems arise in the classroom?  Do students lose interest or give up too soon?  Baker spoke on what we know and what we don't know about assessment design.  Check out or google for some of the other work that Baker has done on the content ontology for the CCSS at  One comment at the end of Barker's talk is that we do not align assessment with instruction in the U.S., although there are exceptions.

The first talk after lunch was Assessment ABCs: Purpose, design, and examples (Mike Briscoe, Guillermo Solano-Flores, & Ann Shannon).  See  It is worthwhile noting that certain items are nonnegotiable if materials are to be aligned with the CCSS.  Ann Shannon spoke on formative assessment.  Note:  The Shell Centre ( keeps coming up.   Check out the Math Assessment Project on the website.  They have an excellent collection of medium cycle assessment materials.  Most of the Shell Centre materials such as the The Language of Functions and Graphs (1985) is available for free download.  Originally, I had to pay for my copy.

The last talk of the day was PARCC: Challenges taken on and progress to date (Doug Sovde). See  There was a lot to digest here.

Our working group broke into two subgroups: an algebra subgroup and a geometry subgroup.  I chose the geometry group, not only because I am interested in geometry but also because it was the smaller of the two groups and needed more bodies.  In the end, the geometry group had four people while the algebra group was possible twice as large.

During the first meeting of the geomety group, we began by examining a grade 9-10 geometry project on tesselations, that one of of out teacher used.  We quickly agreed that tesselations offered an opportunity to explore what a student knows about polygons, regular polygons, interior angles of polygons as well as mathematical reasoning and proof.  For example, what regular polygons will tesselate the plane and what regular polygons will not.  During the afternoon session, we come up with a more focused assessment item involving regular hexagons, pentagons, and isosceles trapezoids.  I will try to put up a link later.

On a side note, check out the videos on compass and straightedge constructions at

The reception begins at 5:30.  The food looks delicious.


  1. So glad you are blogging this! I wanted to be there and couldn't pull it off -- please keep it up! -Dan

  2. It's great workshop. There is almost too much to process.