If you have ever wondered what goes into writing assessment questions, my internship will fascinate you. I recently began working at New Classrooms Innovation Partners as an assessment consultant, where I help to write, edit, and format middle school math assessment questions. My team includes two other interns, or assessment consultants, and two New Classrooms employees who work on assessment content, and we are all part of the greater academic team here at New Classrooms. Many of the employees here are former classroom teachers who have felt compelled towards working policy, content, and curriculum work as a consequence of their classroom experiences. I have met many knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated educators here at News Classrooms.
I have been at New Classrooms for a week and have already learned many practical skills. I am gaining new knowledge and love for technology and the possibilities that it provides while I remain wary of the rapid transition towards relying on electronics in the classroom. I have begun learning coding and mark-up languages, and am inspired to learn more. As I edit the assessment questions, I am also entering them into a software to make them interactive and student-friendly. I develop algorithms for scoring the problems, as well as write in the feedback that students will see depending on if they get the answers correct, almost correct, or incorrect. It has been challenging, in a positive way, to write feedback that provides a clear and concise explanation of the math question and the concept. Some of the questions also necessitate that I include the variety of possibilities of correct answers that a student might provide. This has required a great deal of anticipation on my part given that I am coming at the question from a completely different position than a student.
I have already had many opportunities to apply the theories that I engaged with in Barnard education courses to the work I that am doing. The math assessment questions that I am working on are categorized by skill rather than age level, with the goal of providing a personalized education that allows students to take the time they need to master a skill. New Classrooms works to incorporate technology into classrooms to further achieve these goals. Having taken courses at Barnard about multicultural pedagogy, math education and social justice, and contemporary issues in education, I have been cognizant of the wording and subjects of the questions and have been working to make them culturally diverse and relevant.
The internship is preparing me well for my future as a classroom elementary school teacher. I am gaining a deeper insight into the world of mathematics education and the attempts to provide alternatives to traditional pedagogies. Yesterday was my first academic team meeting, and the entire hour was devoted to the use of manipulatives in the classroom. Manipulatives are three-dimensional objects that students can use in the classroom to help learn mathematical concepts and solve math problems. While many classrooms have standard manipulatives, such as base-ten blocks and unifix cubes, manipulatives can be any object that students can use to count. I remember using m&m’s as manipulatives when I was in first grade. We discussed the advantages to using manipulatives: with a visual and tangible aid, students can develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. They can solve them by working them out with objects, rather than by using memorized algorithms that they might not truly understand. For example, manipulatives tend to be especially helpful when trying to understand multiplication and division, as students can use them to group objects in various ways. We also discussed the drawbacks to manipulatives: they are often misused because they can seem like toys to students, teachers don’t always know how to implement them, and they can become a crutch for students when solving math problems. Lastly, we discussed ways that we as an organization can provide support to teachers so that they can effectively bring manipulatives into the classroom.
In the next few weeks, I hope to become more familiar with the software I am using and learn more coding languages. I want to learn more specifically about manipulative in classrooms and how using them might vary when schools have fewer or greater resources. I am looking forward to various other topics that we will continue to delve into in the future, and storing the information I learn here to use in my classroom. I am very excited to continue doing math problems and coding them to make them accessible and interactive for middle school students and their teachers.