At home this summer we’ve been trying to keep some math and reading in the daily (weekly) routine – just so we don’t all forget how to subtract compound fractions.

I gave my daughter a hard-ish multiplication problem to do. One like this:

67,329
x   642
=====

This problem gets messy quickly if you aren’t careful. There are three set of carries, numbers to keep in their columns. She made simple errors a couple of times (I pulled out my iPhone calculator to check her work…maybe not the best message, but she seemed not to notice), and was getting frustrated.

I wrote the problem out as three separate challenges, breaking the challenge down. Here’s one of the three:

67,329
x      6
=====

Once she (quickly and successfully) completed the problems, I asked her to “put it all together like a sandwich.” She didn’t need any further instruction. She put the extra zeroes in the right places (she calls them ‘door knobs’) and assembled the correct answer. When she was finished she said, “you never told me I could do it that way!”

Hopefully it’s a decent lesson in synthesizing skills to create new approaches.

But it’s also a lesson for schools who are attempting to create authentic assessment efforts with meaningful faculty involvement.

There are many ways to approach assessment of critical thinking, written communication, research skills. But every one of these 21st Century skills comes back to rubrics and authentic tasks. The consensus is that we can’t test this knowledge into students.

With the school year coming, our conversations with clients and potential clients have picked up intensity. One school, who have worked with us for a year but are struggling to make progress, has a similar problem to my daughter. They’re trying to:

• Design rubrics