Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Using the BOX Method With Online Assessments

With the current emphasis on online assessments, how to students show their work and organize their work? How can the teacher review the test the day after? What can teachers use to show parents the strengths and weaknesses of their child?

Often when students are testing online, I observe them hastily take out scratch paper, do their work haphazardly all over the paper, and then unceremoniously throw the paper in the trash as they leave the classroom.

This can't be good for mathematics! Nor does it help the teacher review the test with the class afterwards. Plus, the teacher has no easy way to share with parents the specific mistakes their child might be making. At best, I see teachers printing a sterile report detailing which questions the student solved right or wrong.


Many years ago a colleague shared with me a great scaffolding idea to help students use their "scratch" paper effectively and to organize their work. Depending on the amount of paper space needed for each problem, I tell students to divide their paper into Box 4 or Box 6.

Box 4: Students fold their paper in half horizontally, and then in half again vertically, resulting in the paper divided into quarters. Students then number each quarter front and back, resulting in space for 8 problems on one sheet of paper.

Obviously, students don't HAVE to fold the paper. Instead they can simply draw lines on their paper indicating the quarters.

Box 6 is fun to use because it provides enough work space for most math and I LOVE watching the students try to divide the paper into thirds. (Cutting into thirds in itself is a great skill for students to learn.) 
What are the benefits of using the BOX Method?
  • Students are allowed to solve only one problem per section! This means students quit trying to cram the work for 20 problems on one side of the page.
  • It is very easy for the teacher to spot check a particular problem, since all 35 students will have their work located in the same spot. For example, the work for Question 6 will be in the lower right corner of every student's page.
  • Box Method discourages students from treating their paper like "scratch" work. As a result, students do their work more carefully.
  • Teachers can send the Box home for parents to look at their child's work.

When your students are taking an online math assessment, please consider having your students show (and organize) their work using the BOX Method.

Do you have a different way for students to show their work during online assessments? SHARE!