Chapter 2, Interviews

“A brief one-on-one or small group interview has the potential to yield cues regarding particular mathematical challenges, misconceptions, shallow understanding, and cues for next steps instructionally.” The Formative 5, page 47

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I am loving this book study on the The Formative 5: Everyday Assessment Techniques for Every Math Classroom by Skip Fennell, Beth Kobett, and Jonathan Wray. Once again, Twitter was the place to be for great conversations. Lots of discussion about how to use digital versions of the forms. Be sure to check out the hashtag #Formative5BookStudy! There were also lots of good comments on the blog post, so be sure you check those out.

Reading schedule


  1. Follow the reading guide posted above. Each Monday listed on the schedule, I will publish a post with my thoughts. I’m planning to use the format suggested in the book study guide included at the back of the book (Sharing, Aha!, and Let’s Try!).
  2. Participate by adding a comment to this post or by replying to the comments of others. Your comment will be displayed once approved.
  3. Use the hashtag #Formative5BookStudy to participate in a slow Twitter chat. Search on the hashtag anytime during the week to follow the conversation. I will be posting questions throughout the week, and you can add your thoughts using the same hashtag, as well as the hashtag #Formative5, or just read what others are saying. If you haven’t used Twitter for professional development, this is a great way to start.


Interviews are a natural extension to observations, so I like the connections to the previous chapter. Finding time to fit everything into an already tight math block has been a recurring theme in the discussions on Twitter, so it was helpful to hear from teachers who had had that same concern and who provide practical approaches for fitting interviews into the schedule (pages 49-50). It’s also important to keep in mind that interviews are brief–usually less than five minutes. Several recording forms for planning and conducting interviews were provided, and I found the Interview Record (Figure 2.5, page 55) to be particularly useful. Asking a student how they solved a problem and why they solved it that way is such great information. Because much of the information on the form is repeated for each student (Content Focus, Mathematical Practices, and Learning Task), I might move that to the top of the form to give me more room to write for each student. As an instructional coach, I could see using this form when I observe lessons in classrooms.


My Aha! moment in this chapter was the idea that interviews are not just used for assisting struggling students and addressing misconceptions, but are also used to learn more about advanced or interesting strategies for solving problems or to just figure out what the heck a specific student did (page 50)! I think this is a trap we also fall into for small group instruction, using it only or primarily for remediation. I thought the interviews with Jake (page 50) were excellent examples of how quick and informative interviews can be. I also liked the format of the questions, true of false versus asking him to actually solve the problems. Such great insight into his mathematical thinking from such a brief interaction.

Let’s Try!

I am intrigued by the technology tools shared on page 57. I casually glanced at the apps mentioned, and they seem to be designed for teachers to record lessons to use in a flipped classroom. I want to know more about how the apps might be used for interviews, so I’m going to work my Twitter PLN to find out more. I also wonder if SeeSaw could be used, since that’s something I’m already hoping to use more of next year. If anybody has any information, please comment below!

Your Turn

Share your thoughts and/or observations either below or on Twitter using the hashtags #Formative5BookStudy and #Formative5. Look for the next post on Monday, July 9th. Have a great 4th of July holiday!

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  1. I too began thinking about using seesaw for interviewing. I teach half day kindergarten and my math block it not as long as typical because I am fitting everything into a half day. Seesaw is a tool my kinders can easily use. I think with seesaw, we could capture a picture of the student’s work, which I’m not sure if I can do with the other apps, and then record the interview as part of the process.

    The part of the chapter I found most helpful was the specific interview questions that I could ask. As I imagined myself asking these questions to students I also began thinking of a typical response I get “I just knew it in my head.” Often my students have memorized information and are not able to explain. I would love some ideas for what to ask or how to move forward from the “I just knew it in my head” response.

    1. Yes, I get that “I just knew it in my head” response, too. I try to gently probe, “That’s awesome, can you explain to me what went on in your head?” And if they have truly memorized something, that’s okay, too. It’s just that there’s not a lot about math that we just memorize, so we need to keep digging!

  2. I am enthralled with this book and am going crazy thinking about how I am going to change my teaching for next year. Middle school is an entirely different breed so this could energize my classroom and bring me more in tune with CCSS and mathematical practices. I can only see this making me a better teacher. I’ve been wanting to have my students take ownership for their learning. I think this is a perfect way. I always focus on misconceptions but want to learn to add alternative strategies. I don’t use twitter so I hope I am not losing out in this study.

    1. I’m with you! I’m filled with ideas from this book. You are certainly not losing out by not being on Twitter, but I’m pretty passionate about trying to convince educators what an amazing tool Twitter is for professional development. In this case, it adds a much more interactive feel to the book study, because people post questions/concerns and others respond to them. I only follow fellow educators on Twitter, so my feed is not junked up with other stuff (like the Kardashians, ha ha) . It’s very similar to Facebook, actually, in that you only see and interact with those people who interest you. It’s super easy to set up an account, if you want to take a peek! https://www.mathcoachscorner.com//2013/02/twitter-professional-development-at-your-fingertips/

  3. As an gifted teacher, I have always used interview process with my math kids. Trying to dig into their thinking processes. It also helps with they are making mistakes, I can spot those misconceptions that they have.

  4. My AHA moment in this chapter was also the idea of using interviews as a way to check on advanced or unique ways of mathematical thinking, not just for struggling students or for remediation. I particularly liked the specific examples of interviews and the interview records. I feel these will help me to extend my observations in a more purposeful and focused adjustment of my lessons to meet student needs, whether through remediation or extension. I have struggled with how to get students to communicate their thinking, and the ideas provided in this chapter make me excited for this next school year.

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