• assessment: an accounting of what learners know using objective evidence. Informal assessment is ongoing as adults monitor young children’s learning each day
  • math concepts: early ideas about numbers, counting, shapes, measurement, time, greater than, less than, money
  • math language: commonly used math vocabulary, such as more, less, how many in all, fewer, add, take away, number, triangle, square, and circle
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and result in more than a one-word answer

Assess What Children Understand

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

To fully support children’s math learning, you should thoughtfully and continually observe and assess what skills children have or do not have, and what concepts they understand or misunderstand.

  • Watch and listen. Notice what challenges children face and where children excel. Carefully observe performance, interactions with peers and adults, answers to questions, and the words children use to describe their world.
  • Customize instruction. Use observations to build an intentional math curriculum for each child’s needs. For example,
    • Use small group and one-on-one activities to target specific needs for specific children.
    • Challenge children who demonstrate advanced mathematical understandings by introducing more complex ideas and vocabulary.

In this video, you’ll see how the educators carefully observe children’s math understanding to inform their teaching. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do the educators assess children’s progress?
  • How do the educators customize instruction based on each child’s math learning needs?


What is assessment and why is it important?

  • Assessment is the processes of identifying how a child is doing in comparison to how he or she was doing before, and in comparison to what is expected at a child’s developmental age.
  • Assessment is critical to understanding each child’s unique strengths and needs.
  • Assessment allows educators to support children’s development and learning more effectively as it offers information about the challenges the child is facing and how to best support him/her.

How can you use informal assessment to identify children’s strengths or needs in math?

  • Make mental notes or keep a log to track children’s math knowledge and plan the next activities or instructional goal.
  • Use small group and one-on-one instruction to better assess children’s strengths and needs, address unique learning needs, target a skill, and plan for next steps for learning.

How can you customize the math curriculum for every child’s needs?

  • Provide opportunities for small group or one-on-one activities.
  • Seek an alternate way to teach a topic. If a child does not recognize shapes, try making the shapes in a different medium (such as shaving cream, paint, chalk, or yarn).


Think about your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do you currently assess children’s growth in mathematical learning?
  • What did you learn that you might incorporate into your program?
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