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Giving Specific Success Criteria in Mathematics for making my students learning more visible.

MA in TESOL Yordanka Brunet Valle

Last year, while I was teaching Mathematics in Grade 1, I noticed that my students needed more support while solving word problems. Based on my daily practice I realized that one of the most beneficial ways to help students identifying their strengths and areas of improvement while solving word problems was through having Success Criteria that can help them see their own development.

So, I started looking at different learning resources in order to get a better understanding of this topic. The question I asked to myself was the following: “How will teachers and students know when the Student Learning Outcome (SLO) has been met? So, the purpose of this article is to share the Success Criteria I designed and applied in Mathematics lessons that highly contributed to making my Grade 1 students’ learning more visible.

Having a Success Criteria also helps students self-assess and identify what they need to keep practicing. In addition, it helps teachers to provide effective and descriptive feedback about learners’ progress.

Therefore, I did some research about:

  1. What is Success Criteria?

  2. What are the characteristics of effective Success Criteria?

  3. Why do teachers use them for?

  4. When and how do students use them?

I researched different authors and identified that by giving the students Success Criteria, they could make their learning more visible because:

  1. They were able to identify themselves the steps they needed more support on.

  2. They reflect on what they need to do in order to improve their work.

  3. They think about the next steps in order to keep moving forward.

I also looked at the characteristics of effective Success Criteria.

Effective Success Criteria:

  1. are established by the teacher and show students how to successfully demonstrate learning at the end of an instructional period

  2. allow for differentiation in process based on student needs

  3. are expressed in clear language which is meaningful to all learners

In addition, I researched about when and how do students use Success Criteria?

  1. When the students are working individually they can apply Success Criteria and evaluate their own progress

  2. The students can make reference to Success Criteria while receiving/responding to the feedback provided.

I selected an ongoing Math objective/benchmark: Make sense of simple word problems, decide what operations are needed to solve them and, with help, represent them, with objects or drawings or on a number line.

Next, I designed an example of Success Criteria and modeled for the students. Once the students understood each of the steps and learned how to use them, the impact of their final results was highly effective as the Success Criteria helped learners to evaluate their own progress.

I worked individually with each learner and made sure that they understood in which level of the learning scale they were, why they were still there and what they needed to do in order to move forward.

My next steps regarding the Success Criteria applied were analysing data collected that helped me to provide better differentiation in process based on student needs and this allowed the students to make their learning more visible.

I analyzed data collected and started comparing the results before and after using the Success Criteria and we all (students and teachers) noticed the big improvement. See chart below with highights of some of the biggest improvements.

Success Criteria

  1. I can read the problem.

  2. I can identify and underline key words/ important information from the text.

  3. I can show my interpretation through a drawing.

  4. I can write the equation.

  5. I can solve the problem.

  6. I can write the answer in a full sentence.


  1. Giving specific criteria for success to my learners have made their learning more visible.

  2. After the students started using the Success Criteria for solving problems in Math lessons, all of them (14 students) were able to write the equation and solve the problem.

  3. From a total of 14 students 10 (71% from the total) were able to write the answer in a full sentence.

Examples of students’ work applying the Success Criteria while solving problems

Yordanka Brunet Valle is an English teacher and teacher trainer from Cuba. She works at the International School of Havana as a Grade 2 Homeroom Teacher. She got her Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Westminster University in London, UK. She is a Member of the National English Teachers Association (GELI) and IATEFL in UK. Yordanka won the Trinity College London Teacher Trainer Conference Scholarship in Harrogate, UK in 2009. She has published educational articles and a book “Using a Blog for Training Teachers to Integrate Videos in Class”. You can contact her at


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