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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Attending to Precision & Second Chances

Every now and then we all need a second chance!  Wait til you see the difference another chance made!

We recently finished a Unit on Place Value in Math.  While students are exposed to Place Value in earlier grades, they make a giant leap in fourth grade.  They need to be able to read, write, compare, order and round numbers to the nearest 100,000.  This is the first time students are working regularly with such large numbers. 

One of the most difficult concepts (CCSS 4.NBT.1; 4.NBT.2) asks students to "recognize that in a multi-digit whole number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to its right."  To examine this concept, I worked with students in small groups using Base Ten Blocks. Using the place value blocks, students could clearly see the relationship.  Students worked very hard to understand this concept. 

Before the actual test day there were Quick Checks along the way including a Review Day.  When I corrected the tests I was SHOCKED at the results.  I couldn't understand how the majority of students scored between 63-76!

Screen shot 2014-11-23 at 7.56.12 AM.png

The numbers incorrect certainly didn't match the formative assessments that were done throughout the unit.   My colleagues shared how they gave the tests back to their students to correct only those answers that were incorrect - no reteaching - just a second chance and suggested I do the same.  So I passed back the test and asked students to correct their answers and write the new answers in colored pencil.  EVERY student did better.  The results below show the drastic difference.

The students were thrilled to have the second chance and were pleased with the results as well.  While I love the idea of letting students review their work, somewhere in the back of my mind I hear my dad saying "Measure twice, Cut once!".   The Common Core Mathematical Practice #6 states that students attend to precision:

But how do we instill the "measure twice, cut once" habit the first time around?  Is it through more practice?  Is it through showing the difference between "try #1" and "try #2"?   Would love to learn how you teach 'Attending to Precision?'

Practicing what I preach: "We all learn from our mistakes" means I'll continue to give my students their "Second Chance!"    



  1. Pretty interesting stuff. Kind of flies in the face of the old "your first answer is the best answer". While I know absolutely nothing about teaching, reading your blog makes me wonder if students reviewed their answers prior to submitting, AND without looking at what they wrote the first time, would they come up with a different answer?

    I don't know about you, but reading the explanation of "Attend to Precision" gave me a headache. Sorry.

    :) Can I also say that the thought of taking ANY of these tests has me shaking in my boots!

  2. Hi Cal,
    Like you I'm wondering if the students reviewed their answers before submitting. They are reminded to do so before passing in. Mostly, reviewing looks like them looking over the test - not really redoing anything. It's hard to get a 10 year old in the habit of 'taking the test twice'.
    I will say that I shared the two graphs with the students & they really could 'see' the difference. I let it sink in a bit - I think before the next test - I am going to show the graphs again & see if they are a little more careful.
    Would love to show you some of the other Common Core Standards so you can see exactly what is expected of fourth graders! The wording makes one pause!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hi Nancy,

    A lot of research supports second chances -- Rick Wormelli and Doug Reeves comes to mind immediately, and there are many more. So glad you are giving them second chances so that they focus on the learning (the intrinsic value).

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Tracy,
      I think I have always given other chances to show progress, but this time I SHARED the data with the students through an individual conference. After I wrote this post, I shared the two graphs - boy did the kids take notice. I saw an improvement in the next set of assessments they took.
      Thanks for mentioning the research - always good to have that on our side!
      As always - thank you for commenting.


  4. Sometimes when you are not under pressure (the first time), it feels like you have more time to think. Perhaps that is the case here. Thanks for sharing, Nancy!

    1. I totally agree with you Teresa. Having more time to think is always a good thing - sometimes the kids are rushing to get on to the next activity. Hopefully, they will understand that taking their time has its own rewards.

      Thank YOU for sharing.


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