Showing Progress during a Mathematics Lesson

Demonstrating student progression during a mathematics lesson is about understanding the learning objective and breaking that down into explicit success criteria.

Using Success Criteria

Take, for example, a lesson on calculating the area of compound rectilinear shapes. The intended learning objective was written on the main whiteboard. Success criteria were used to break down the individual concepts employed to achieving, and hopefully, exceeding the learning objective.


Using the Starter

The starter began this process with a fairly simple activity on matching rectangles with their areas to draw on the student’s prior knowledge as well as allowing me to make a formative assessment of how to pitch the rest of the lesson. Having solutions presented on mini-whiteboards provided a quick snapshot to evidence good progress being made on the first success criteria. Marking a tick against this criteria acknowledged to the kids progress was beginning to be made.

Next, I presented a simple compound shape, without dimensions, to the class and asked them to creatively break the shape up into individual rectangles. Here are there most common responses.

Tick against the second success criteria.

Teaching the Development Phase

Moving onto main teaching phase of the lesson I presented a compound shape with dimensions included and demonstrated how to use sum of the individual rectangles to calculate the overall area. The class were then asked to attempt one for themselves on mini-whiteboards. It was clear from viewing their solutions all students could calculate the correct compound area. It was interesting to note the difference in strategies. A tick against the third success criteria was marked. To further evidence the progress being made a second question involving the difference of two areas was posed. Again, all the class correctly calculated the shaded area. An additional tick was placed against the second and third criteria. At this point I set the students off to work on the independent activity as an opportunity to consolidate their progress through additional practise.

Challenge in the Plenary

The plenary provided an opportunity to further consolidate and extend the progress made by challenging the students to work the problem in reverse. This time a compound shape with a fixed 40 cm2 area was presented and the students challenged to calculate two possible perimeters. To promote discussion and peer support students were asked to work in pairs. While about a third of the class could determine suitable dimensions to create the 40 cm2 area only two groups successfully calculated a correct perimeter. A tick was placed against the final criteria for these groups.


At the end of the lesson the success criteria board looked like this.

A self assessment activity where students stated their progress against the criteria concluded lesson.

Final Thoughts

In my experience ticking off the success criteria at regular intervals throughout the lesson provides a clear focus throughout, which in turn leads to greater student engagment and motivation. A quicker pace is developed and students become eager for the challenge because they can see, and most importantly, evidence the progress being made to achieving it.

It is most important in my view to be able to evidence and justify the progress you deem to have been made whether through assessments made from mini-whiteboards, class discussions or what you see in their books. Students will always know better than anyone whether or not they actually are progressing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Mr Mathematics Blog

Calculating Instantaneous Rates of Change

When calculating instantaneous rates of change students need to  visualise the properties of the gradient for a straight line graph.   I use the starter activity to see if they can match four graphs with their corresponding equations. The only clue is the direction and steepness of the red lines in relation to the blue line […]

Converting Between Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Fractions, decimals and percentages are ways of showing a proportion of something.  Any fraction can be written as a decimal, and any decimal can be written as a percentage.  In this blog I discuss how to use the place value table and equivalent fractions to illustrate how fractions, decimals and percentages are connected. You can […]

Comparing Datasets using the Mean and Range

In my experience, students, in general, find the concept of a mean straightforward to calculate and understand. However, the mean alone does not provide a complete picture of a set of data. To achieve this, a measure of spread is also required. The range is the simplest measure that can be used for this. Not […]