Math Portfolios

A math portfolio contains samples of a student's work that is collected over a given length of time. A good portfolio offers insights to a student's thinking, understanding, and mathematical problem-solving skills, and thus offers a picture of the student's progress in math. Following are some suggestions on how you can incorporate the use of portfolios in your math classroom:

  • Explain to your students what a portfolio is and how it will be used.
  • Provide students with portfolio envelopes. They should be large enough to hold various kinds of work.
  • Make sure that your students understand that they are to select their best work for their portfolios. Because one of the purposes of the portfolio is to show individual growth, all papers should be dated.
  • Portfolios may be one of two kinds: an assessment portfolio that shows particular growth, or a work portfolio that contains various projects and activities. Generally, papers from the work portfolio are selected to go into the assessment portfolio.
  • While you may guide students in their selection of material for their portfolios, they should be the judges of what actually goes in.
  • The material that goes into a portfolio should help the teacher and others to understand how students see themselves in the learning of math.
  • Many papers, activities, and projects are appropriate for inclusion in a portfolio. Following are some suggestions:
    • A table of contents
    • Solutions to difficult problems that detail problem-solving abilities
    • The use of mathematics in another discipline
    • Problems created by the student
    • An example of the student's group activity
    • A written report on a major topic in math
    • The student's written account of his or her growth in mathematics
    • Responses to challenging questions and problems
    • A written explanation of the contents of the portfolio

Excerpted from The Math Teacher's Book of Lists.

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