This conference was held in Hamburg, Germany. Our abstracts are given here:

Classifying mathematical objects within a formative assessment lesson: examples taken from the FaSMEd project in South Africa

The Formative Assessment in Science and Mathematics Education (FaSMEd) project develops ‘tools’ (outline classroom lessons) to support teachers to use formative assessment effectively: this paper reports on four of the tools used in classrooms in South Africa. Our question is: how are these tools used in the different classrooms and what lessons can we learn for their further development?

The tools developed by FaSMEd South Africa are designed to be used within ‘big’ lessons; they are used not to teach a new topic area but rather to develop deeper mathematical understandings with and across topics. The tools are also designed to engage students because a) they require them to work in pairs or threes to classify or match representations of mathematical objects and b) it is easy to make a start on the activity but there is enough challenge to keep most students engaged. The tools are further designed to provide information for teachers (and peers), which could be used to help them decide what to do next (formative assessment).

In this presentation, we outline the design of four tools in which students classify objects and explain how the tools were used (including some video) both within pair work and in whole class discussion. The tools were used in four different classes, one was high achieving, two were mixed-ability and the fourth was a special needs class. Evidence suggests that the use of the tools successfully engaged students at a high level in all the classes and both teachers and students enjoyed using these innovative approaches to teaching and learning mathematics.

Improving student engagement in whole class discussions: the use of ‘big cards’

This presentation relates to the work of the Formative Assessment in Science and Mathematics Education (FaSMEd) project in South Africa. In this project teachers were asked to teach lessons using particular tasks. The tasks, which students worked on in pairs, involved the use of small cards to match mathematical objects. These tasks are generally known to be successful in engaging students and providing teachers with opportunities to gather information that can support them in making decisions about what to do next. However, the teacher still has to decide how to introduce the task and how to finish the lesson. Our particular interest in this paper is how the teachers chose to finish the lesson.


Our own experience suggests that finishing a lesson in which students have worked in pairs can be difficult as some students are not interested in discussing the reasons for their choices with the whole class. Therefore, as an experiment, we created big versions of the small cards for the teachers to use on the board. We were interested to see whether, and how, the teachers would use the cards and to what extent the way they used them helped maintain the students’ interest.


In this paper we report on the different ways the teachers used the ‘big cards’ to finish the lessons, as well as the teachers’ views of how well these worked. Although some approaches seemed to work better than others, overall our evidence suggests that their use can help keep students engaged.