This is Part 1 of a mini-series on rubrics. Be sure to check out the Intro post and subsequent posts.

It took me a while to figure out the whole rubric game. I’ll admit, I was relatively anti-rubric in the middle of my career. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t shown how to construct one. Maybe it was due to the mixed messaging I recieved. I had some people in my ear saying that everything should be scored on a rubric. That seemed like a pathway to burnout. Eventually, after many iterations, I began to feel the flow of when I should and how often I should use a rubric. The best way I can capture that “when” question is “when the task is worthy enough to merit one.” That’s not an entirely satisfying answer, but hopefully this post will pull that apart a bit more.

Akin to the “zeroth” practice of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Mathematical Discussion, we begin by identifying the task for which we want to design a rubric. In order to use a rubric we need a rubric-worthy task. It’s not feasible to construct a rubric for every assignment, every warm up, or every set of practice problems. Crafting and assessing on a rubric takes time, and for some of these daily activities, there might just not be enough stuff to assess. A rubric worthy task ought to yield a bunch of student work (a.k.a. “stuff”). 

If you’d like, you can use my quick ‘n dirty task quality scoring guide, pulled from Necessary Conditions. But really, any task that yields significant amounts of work will do.

More important than scoring the task is to work it out yourself first. This will allow you to find methods to solve it, nooks and crannies in which we may get stuck, and identify mathematical habits to express in a task.

You can think of rubric-worthy tasks akin to Portfolio Problems. I often recommend to school and teachers to identify 10-12 Portfolio Problems at the beginning of the year. In fact, I included a pre-service PLC plan in Necessary Conditions for just that (“Appendix K” lol, I’m a monster). I am much more likely to utilize a Portfolio Problem if I have those calendared early on. And during pre-service, my brain is much more likely to be fully engaged as it doesn’t have the dozens of other during-school concerns. 

For this mini-series, we are going to be creating a rubric from scratch. As an example, I’ll be using this task from Illustrative Mathematics. 

I like this task because it connects multiple strands of math content, it’s visual, and it can be approached and solved in a few different ways. In order to help myself out in constructing the rubric, I’ll also read the Illustrative Mathematics commentary at the bottom of the task on the IM website. If this were a facilitated professional development workshop, this is the point where I’d turn it over to you and your team to find a task for rubric design. In this case, we’ll have about 48 hours between posts in this miniseries, so if you’d like, go find a task before we reconvene for Part 2: Establishing Common and Specific Outcomes.


Be sure to subscribe to Emergent Math if you’d like to receive every new post in your inbox. If you’re new here, you can check out my featured posts page or other mini-series (Routines, Lessons, Problems, and Projects & Your Math Syllabus Boot Camp).

Additional posts in this mini-series:
Intro: A Rubric Masterclass
Part 1: Selecting Rubric Worthy Tasks
Part 2: Establishing Common and Specific Outcomes
Part 3: Defining Proficiency and Moving Outward
Part 4: Scores, scoring, grades, and grading
Part 5: Teaching with a rubric; teaching the rubric
Part 6: Humility in Grading

3 thoughts on “A Rubric Masterclass Part 1: Selecting Rubric Worthy Tasks

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