June 2021, Volume 31

"Good Job" - A Missed Opportunity

"Good job" is one of those phrases that is inherently spoken after a task is completed successfully. The phrase has become a habit in education, coming from a need to offer positive feedback and a desire to develop self-directed learners. Praise, such as "good job" offers no indication of how a student did a good job in order to continue the success in the future. In fact, "such praise can comfort and support, is ever-present in many classrooms, is welcomed and expected by students, but rarely does it enhance achievement or learning" (Hattie, 2012). This month's newsletter is focused on helping educators establish effective ways to implement successful student feedback so less opportunities are missed.

Five Foundations for Successful Student Feedback


Effective student feedback will focus on a student's goals rather than performance. Feedback is often mistaken for advice and there is a difference between feedback and advice. Guidance should be avoided until the student has the ability to adjust. If the goal is unclear, it is impossible to give successful feedback. Remind students of their goals often as you offer feedback. Here is an example:

"I see you've shown every step of your calculation. As you work through this task, remember to justify your answer. How did you reach your answer? Does your answer make sense in the context of the problem?"


Effective student feedback requires concise messaging so the students can synthesize it and improve. In order to achieve concise messaging, teachers must be able to closely observe students' interactions with information. It is easy to be so focused on a new lesson that student engagement can often be missed. Video and audio recording lessons can help capture student engagement for educators to review and gain insight into opportunities for student feedback.


It is common practice to put a letter grade or a sticker on a student's paper, however; that isn't really feedback. Students will find themselves wondering what they did well or how they can improve. Successful student feedback must be specific and offer a pathway to achieve a specific goal. Here is an example:

"Your solution is correct but your justification is unclear. How can you communicate the path you took to achieve your solution so that anyone can see your thinking?"


Feedback should be timely and ongoing. It's hard for students to grow if they receive feedback the day before a test or due date. Successful student feedback requires educators to ensure students receive feedback in a reasonable timeframe to apply it and improve. It should be a cyclical process instead of a final destination. Students should receive multiple opportunities to improve their performance to achieve their goal. Try a new grading strategy that eliminates points and letter grades and provides opportunities for students to grapple with the learning. Watch Leah Acala use a strategy to goal-oriented feedback on the Teaching Channel.


Effective student feedback has to be understood. Educators should ensure vocabulary is appropriate and the student is able to digest the information easily. One way to establish user-friendly feedback is to connect the mathematical practices to student learning. Framing feedback around the mathematical practices helps build the student's habits of mind needed to grow mathematically. Here are some examples:

  • "I'm noticing that you..."
  • "What is another way you can represent your solution?"
  • "Your procedure makes sense but your solution is incorrect. How can you check for accuracy?"
  • "Is there a tool that can help you make sense of this problem?"
  • "What is the problem asking? Does your solution make sense?"

Resource of the Month

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics launched Figure This!, a website designed to help students enjoy mathematics through a series of fun and engaging challenges. These challenges are perfect math tasks to promote high-level conceptual understanding and problem-solving. These kinds of tasks allow opportunities to observe and gauge student understanding, making way for authentic student feedback.

Elementary - Which Popcorn?

Take two sheets of 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper. Roll one into a short cylinder and the other into a tall cylinder. Does one hold more than the other?

Find a hint on the Figure This! website.

Secondary - Who Runs Faster?

Two people ran a 50-meter race. Runner 1 crossed the finish line while Runner 2 was at the 45-meter mark. The two runners decided to race again. This time, Runner 2 starts 5 meters ahead of Runner 1, who is at the starting line. If each runs at the same speed as in the previous race, who will win?

Find a hint on the Figure This! website.

Opportunities for the Field

Registration Now Open - Productive Struggle Workshop

In this FREE full-day workshop, for any K-12 educator, administrator, or instructional coach, discover how to implement and support student productive struggle in the math classroom. This workshop will provide participants with key points from the Productive Math Struggle book, highlight action activities with demonstrations and interactive tasks, and supported intentional planning time.

It is not required but highly encouraged to purchase and read Productive Math Struggle: A 6-Point Action Plan for Fostering Perseverance. The book is available for purchase at several retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Corwin Publishing.

Please register for only one workshop option as capacity is limited. There is a high volume of interest for these workshops. To be respectful of all those who would like to attend, IDOE requests that only those who are sure they will be able to attend register for the onsite sessions. An Eventbrite ticket is required to enter the workshop. Follow the links below to register and receive a ticket.

IDOE Mathematics Team

Robin Conti

Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning

Emily Bruning

Elementary Math and Science Specialist