#67 How to Assess Math Understanding Like a Volleyball Coach with Tom Schimmer

allison loves math podcast Mar 15, 2022
 Level Up Your Math Assessment with Tom Schimmer

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"Every moment of practice coaches assess their athletes. They're not grading their athletes, but they're looking at what their athletes are doing."

Today's interview is with Tom Schimmer, author of the bestselling book, Grading from the Inside Out, and an expert in assessment, grading, RTI, and educational leadership.  Through this episode, Tom draws attention to ways assessment can boost our student’s confidence and love for math, including how to assess math the way coaches assess their athletes. 

Allison and Tom discuss: 

  • How Tom’s teachers played vital roles in nurturing his love for math. [1.56]
  • What good assessment practices look like [7.00]
  • How to make room for learning from mistakes in a math class [9.14]
  • Why and how to avoid redundancy in math tests [15.44]
  • Assessment planning [20.29]
  • Tom's books on instruction and assessment [22.57]
  • Quality over counting: Situations where equal marks do not equate to equal understanding [24.34]


  • Find a way to use evidence (outcomes of assessment) to advance learning as opposed to just judging learning
  • ‘What’s the score during warmup?’

         ‘The score is 00. The game hasn't started.’ 

         ‘Okay. Why did you sweat in practice? Why didn't you die for a loose ball? Why didn't you do all of that? You clearly didn't get anything? Because it's to start the game, the game is 00. 

         ‘Well, it prepared me to play better, right? 

  • Be prepared to demonstrate math proficiency without practicing math proficiency, even though you're not harvesting anything, you're not gaining anything, you're looking at this idea that this is going to improve my math skill. 
  • Percentage system is not all it's cracked up to be when it comes to grading.
  • Every moment of practice the coaches assess their athletes, they're not grading their athletes, but they're looking at what their athletes are doing. So if we taught like we coached in the sense that we do very little quantification. We would have an assessment system or an assessment experience for our students that would be most beneficial to them reaching proficiency with the learning goals.

Allison’s episode on Tom’s podcast

Connect with Tom Schimmer

  • Twitter: @TomSchimmer; @TomSchimmerPod
  • Instagram: @tomschimmerpodcast
  • Facebook: Schimmer Education
  • YouTube: Tom Schimmer Podcast
  • TikTok: @tomschimmerpodcast

Allison’s Books

  • Raise your Math Grade: Get this FREE short book, which is a toughen-up math manifesto mixed with you-can-do-it enthusiasm. It is an open educational resource, meaning you can share it freely with friends, students, and colleagues. 
  • Crush Hypothesis Testing:  In Introductory Statistics, hypothesis testing is one of the most difficult topics and every teacher, textbook, YouTube video explains in a slightly different way. If it's making you frustrated, you're not alone. Learn the 5-Step Method that Makes Hypothesis Testing Easier and Understandable

  • Crush Math Now Order this best-selling Amazon book! It is a study guide packed with all the advice Allison has given students over the years on math mindset, study skills, and test-taking strategies.
  • Love Math Journal: Get this growth mindset journal to help 4th-8th grade students to succeed in and love math. This journal is co-authored by Allison and Nicole Thomson, who had been on Episode# 44 Using Gratitude to Help Students Overcome Math Anxiety.

Connect with Allison