Assessing Math Skills Using Leveled Checklists

by Early Math Counts

Last week I wrote about looking for progress when assessing children.  That means that rather than looking for endpoints or skill mastery, we look for small changes or progressions in competencies over time.  As long as children are moving forward, we generally don’t have too much to worry about.

The High Scope Curriculum uses the Preschool Child Observation Record (COR) as an assessment of children’s development and learning.  The COR is broken into 6 categories and provides a developmental sequence for each item broken down into 5 levels of behavior.  The reason that this model is nice and practical for practitioners is that the behaviors are observable and therefore easily implemented.

The math section begins with “Sorting Objects” and is defined, “as a part of their discovery process, children begin to recognize similarities and differences and to group things accordingly.

Level 1. Child creates a collection of five or more objects.

At this level the child groups at least five objects (possibly in a box or other container).  The rationale for grouping the objects (for example, shared characteristics) may or may not be apparent to either the child or the observer.

Level 2. Child sorts a collection into smaller groups of similar objects.

The child may start with a collection and sort it into subgroups or, in the process of assembling a collection, create at least two subgroups of identical or nearly identical objects. (For example, if the child selects two kernels of corn out of a group of mixed seeds, the corn kernels would be considered “identical.”)

Level 3. In sorting, child groups objects are the same in some way but different in others.

The child sorts objects into subgroups that share at least one property (e.g., all are toy farm animals) but are different in other ways (e.g., their sizes vary).

Level 4. In sorting, child groups objects that are the same in some way and identifies the similarity.

The child sorts as he or she did in Level 3 and also describes the similarity within the subgroups by naming at least one property all objects share.

Level 5. Child identifies two or more similarities between objects or groups.

Up to this point, children have demonstrated an awareness of at most one attribute at a time- even though they may use different properties in different subgroups. At level 5, they show awareness at the same time of two or more similarities between the same objects o groups of objects.


You can see how each level is just a slight progression from the previous one.   At each level, the COR provides examples of how a teacher might see the behaviors while children are playing.  Teachers provide opportunities for children to sort by setting up the environment with materials that can be sorted.  Think about the many manipulatives you have in your classroom and ways that you can put them out so that children can organize and sort them.  Listen carefully to what they children are saying to each other (or to themselves) about their play because you may be surprised to hear them talk about the reasons they are sorting their materials into groups or subgroups.  Again, the children’s motivations may not be readily observable so you have to think of ways to discover what they are.

If you would like to learn more about the COR and High Scope, the curriculum and all associated materials can be found at the High Scope website.


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