Formative Assessment Probes

Effective teachers are always adjusting their instruction based upon what their students know or don’t know while simultaneously juggling a million other plates like bus duty, parent communications, and endlessly grading papers. But now the question arises as to what is a practical way to make student thinking visible?  Teachers are always striving for their instruction to be responsive to this evidence of a student’s thinking but this task can be challenging and time consuming, so we need a path that is likely to produce reliable evidence that is easy to act upon.

A Formative Assessment Probes is a diagnostic tool that can be used to measure a student’s understanding during instruction. A probe should be administered as a formative assessment of progress toward the intended learning goals to help a teacher plan the next steps in instruction. Being diagnostic in nature, probes are never meant to be given as a worksheet or collected for a grade. In fact, probes provide immediate information about student thinking in terms of both their understandings AND misunderstandings.

Written in a specific format, a formative assessment probe contains multiple items targeting a specific topic with the goal of providing important information to help understand why a student may be having difficulty and in what ways the student is making sense of the mathematics. As a result, teachers will have evidence to inform instructional actions and address the specific needs of their students.

Designed for Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Mathematics Advancement Project (OK-MAP), a federally funded collaborative effort among Western Heights Public Schools and Northeastern State University – Broken Arrow, has had the great honor of working with author and researcher Cheryl Tobey. Together, they created a portfolio of Formative Assessment Probes specifically aligned to the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Mathematics in grades 3 through Pre-Algebra and both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2.

We are proud to announce that these Formative Assessment Probes are now available to the entire great state of Oklahoma for classroom use!



Getting Started

With so many options available on this website where do you start? So glad you asked! It is always a great idea to start with an introduction of anything new and this introduction is done by Cheryl Tobey herself. Cheryl will walk you through a short yet detailed explanation of the unique aspects of her Formative Assessment Probes.

What sets these Formative Assessment Probes apart from anything else available are the resources tied to the probes themselves. Each probe is an all-inclusive resource that guides you through using Cheryl’s own A-C-T cycle (Analyze the Math, Consider Student Thinking, and Take Action). The A-C-T cycle provides guidance around implementation of the probe including support for analyzing student work and using the findings to plan your instructional next steps.

Using Probes in Your Classroom

What does this mean for you? As an Oklahoma math teacher, you now have the OKMath Framework that can be coupled together with these formative assessment probes at specific times during your school year to gauge student understanding and respond appropriately. We hope we are supporting teachers in Oklahoma with the resources they need to create a mathematical learning experience for students that is purposeful, connected, and meets their individual needs.

About the Author: Robbyn Glinsmann

I am currently the Director of Elementary Math for the State of Oklahoma. I get the joy of working with the great teachers of Oklahoma to help them understand and love math just a little bit more than before. A little hard work combined with a positive attitude make all the difference in the world to help someone gain confidence in math and all its possibilities!

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