CL Newsletter, October 2020 - Open Middle and Desmos

Welcome to October! We’re taking you behind the scenes again. This month, we’re showing you how you can build your very own Open Middle–style screens with two different ways to provide feedback.

It’s no secret that we really love Open Middle problems, and some of our activities have been inspired by them.

Some of these problems are best done on paper, working with pen and pencil, crossing out numbers, and drawing up new versions to make another attempt. All of the problemsolving elbow grease students use is something we don’t want to replace. However, in a distance learning environment, we need to harness the power of technology to provide effective feedback to students

Here are three ways we took an Open Middle problem and built in feedback to help students understand their work:

Evaluative Feedback

This is the most common kind of feedback you’ll see in digital math tools. The computer evaluates student thinking. You’re right or you’re wrong. This feedback is the most common often because it’s easiest to set up, which counts for a lot at the moment.

Interpretive Feedback

Education researcher Dylan Wiliam says, “good feedback should cause thinking.” Oftentimes evaluative feedback doesn’t offer students enough to reflect on or think about, which results in students guessing and checking. That’s why we’re so enthusiastic about interpretive feedback, which doesn’t tell a student that they’re right or wrong. Rather, it interprets their thinking in some other form, and lets them decide what to do with that information.

A strong theme in Open Middle problems is the subsequent attempts students make and the strategies they develop based on their previous solutions. We can add to that experience by using interpretive feedback. It doesn’t always need to be technologically dazzling to give students something more to think about. This screen simply tells the student one of three things: was their answer bigger on the left, bigger on the right, or exactly equal? It’s up to the student to decide what to do next.

The good news is that each of these examples were created from the same template. Here’s how we hooked up the CL to get it all ticking along...

Watch a tutorial about how to create your own

Build It Yourself!

There are many ways to add feedback to your screens, but we’ve built a template that keeps the performance high and the modifying difficulty low. We also have a little walkthrough for using the template.

Watch a tutorial about how to use the template

We’ve included some more examples for you to check out here, and we’d love to see any that you create yourself!