Our draft 10-12 BC math curriculum has a phrase that I’m going to verbally process here, as part of thinking through something for a workshop I’m in today.

What does it mean to assess if students can “Apply flexible strategies to solve problems”?

My initial assumption was to make this about recognizing multiple ways to solve a problem. But is that the best way to read this? Flexibility generally means being able to adapt to challenges or obstacles.

Sometimes, having multiple ways to solve something does enable one to switch to a second approach when the first one fails. But say a student is solving a system of linear equations. Does knowing how to graph a solution and knowing how to use substitution necessarily make their strategies flexible? What if they can use both methods but don’t particularly know why to choose one vs the other?

Or a different perspective: can’t a single strategy be flexible, if it encompasses ways to adapt to unusual challenges?

One example might be solving equations overall. Perhaps simply being able to solve an equation with a variety of algebraic “moves”, selecting them based on the particular situation, is a successful example of applying a flexible strategy.

Thoughts? Would love to hear both BC and non-BC teachers contribute what they think about this phrase.

So one of my major challenges this year is attempting to overhaul my Big Picture on assessment to include our “curricular competencies”. For those outside of this province, the cc’s are a sort of orthogonal set of skills we want students to demonstrate that are, for the most part, content-independent.

Here’s my summary version of what that might look like for PreCalc 11:

precalc11 mega learning chart

The phrases across the top row are my SBG-like summary of the course content. The phrases down the left side are my summarized take on the cc’s as they’re listed in our curriculum doc.

So what does this mean? Do we have to fill this entire grid? How am I going to have students demonstrate Reflection, Indigenous Experience or Multi-modal Representation on every single learning target??!?!?

Well, no. The grid is here for a few reasons:

  • To remind me that simply handing students a quiz might show algebra skill, but does it show conceptual understanding? Can they estimate reasonably with these concepts? Can they represent their ideas visually? etc.
  • To emphasize to students that those things on the left are REAL and they MATTER. That if students show they can be flexible with how they solve something, that’s a strength worth noting.
  • Because I stole the grid idea from Peter Liljedahl and it seemed like a good idea.

My current goal is to have every column get “checked off” at least twice to count as complete, and for every row to be hit at least once during the course. Nothing left out, and by showing more than one connection to the content, students are demonstrating some kind of mastery over it.


  1. When students DO write a normal-looking SBG quiz (eg. focused on an algebraic skill), where would that even fall under this grid? “Reasoning and Logic”?
  2. Can some of the competencies on the left be demonstrated entirely¬†without connecting to the course content? What if I have students work on a ‘numeracy’ task that uses earlier known content but in a way that stretches their communication and reasoning skills?
  3. How the heck do I store data for this? Right now I have a half-started Access database app that could store the info, and a spreadsheet that I’m just old-school-gradebook dropping checkmarks into for the time being. Do I need to store this entire grid? What if I just store the per-column and per-row summaries somehow?