Integrating Assessment Into Your Math Classroom (Without Interrupting Everything Else)



Assessment. The word likely sparks some feelings in you—positive, negative, or maybe just fatigued. 

Assessment is a necessary and valuable part of classroom instruction, and (at its best) it provides the data you need to monitor individual student progress and make sure appropriate differentiation can occur. But the fact is that adding more assessment to your classroom can be a time-consuming endeavor.

So how do you optimize your time and energy to get the greatest possible value from your assessment activities? Here are our tips for achieving balance in each phase of designing, deploying, and analyzing assessments in your classroom.

Creating the assessment

There’s a lot that goes into creating an assessment, but alignment to standards and aspects of rigor are key. It’s not necessarily difficult to create a good assessment, it’s just pretty easy to create a bad one. Getting the assessment itself right is critical, so that the time you invest during the rest of the cycle is based on a solid foundation.

  • First, decide what kind of assessment you’re creating (diagnostic, formative, summative, or evaluative) and how much content it will cover (a lesson, a topic, a unit?).

  • If you’re developing a diagnostic assessment, check out Achieve the Core’s Coherence Map. It’s a great tool for exploring how standards connect across domains and grade levels. 

  • As you are curating or creating problems, confirm that they align to the standards, assess the content you want, and will offer valuable insight once analyzed.

Giving the assessment

It might feel disruptive to take time away from instruction when you think about all of the content you need to cover, but the right kind of assessment supports instruction rather than interrupting it.

  • Target tasks, which are included in every Match Fishtank math lesson, are an easy way to incorporate formative assessment into your daily structure, since they should only take a few minutes at the close of a lesson.
  • Pre-unit and mid-unit assessments allow you to gather additional information about what students know before and during a unit. Be sure to keep these assessments to a length that can be easily incorporated into your weekly pacing. If you think an assessment is going to make you add an assessment day, or split a lesson’s objective over multiple days, you might want to consider editing down. 

Analyzing the assessment

There are many rabbit holes or tangents you can find yourself pursuing when analyzing assessments. Consider before you begin which assessments you want to dig into deeply, versus those you can analyze with a quick look or sorting activity.

  • When you use a short format like target tasks, quickly sort student responses into piles of mastered, partially mastered, and not yet mastered.
  • With pre-unit assessments, stay focused on how student responses reflect their preparation for the upcoming unit content.
  • For end-of-unit assessments, think critically about the differences in student responses at different point levels (i.e. what does a 2-point response look like for this prompt, and how is that different from a 1-point response).
  • Look for subtler misconceptions or gaps in understanding as you analyze student work. If there are multiple strategies for solving a given problem, you can gain insight on a student’s thinking from a partial solution or an atypical approach.

Action planning in response to the assessment data

One of your goals in action planning is to identify manageable, bite-sized steps to address unfinished learning revealed through the assessment, and determine how to incorporate that additional practice or reteaching into upcoming lessons as seamlessly as possible.

  • If you are using a pre-unit assessment, determine when during the unit you’ll address any gaps in understanding it uncovers, and what resources you will use. If you have a Match Fishtank account, you can access our search page to find all of the lessons related to a unit’s foundational standards and use any of those resources with your students who need more practice.

  • Use your target task piles to inform how you circulate and provide differentiated supports or scaffolding for specific students during future lessons.

  • If you use a mid-unit assessment, you have an opportunity to surface concepts and skills from the first half of the unit that students may not have mastered yet. Identify lessons in the latter half of the unit that provide good opportunities to re-incorporate concepts from earlier on.

  • When reviewing summative assessments, it can help to return to the Coherence Map to identify the connections your current unit has to future standards. As you transition out of a unit, consider how you will support individual students’ progress based on their current understanding.


We think that assessment done right unlocks something very important for teachers. We also know that creating materials like this from scratch can take valuable time away from the wide range of prep work teachers need to do. 

All Match Fishtank users have free access to target tasks for every math lesson, and end-of-unit assessments for every math unit. To further support assessment we have recently created even more assessment resources, starting with our beta launch of Fishtank Plus for 6th–8th Grade Math.

Fishtank Plus users can now download an expanded assessment package, which includes pre-unit assessments with extended commentary, mid-unit assessments with answer keys, and detailed analysis for the end-of-unit assessment. Download a sample or check out the video below for a look at what comes with the Expanded Assessment Package.